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Why Is There Fear Of Punishment In Religion?

by Annagail Lynes  
8/04/2007 / Christian Living

Why is there fear of punishment in religion? We are told if we don't follow all the commandments, if we don't read the Bible x amount of minutes and pray x number of hours, God will be displeased with us. He will send down lightning to strike us.

However the author of I John 4:18 advises us: "There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love's complete perfection]."

In perfect love, there is no fear of punishment. God doesn't want us to worry because Jesus took the ultimate punishment. He laid down His life for us. He took the full weight of our sins--past, present and future (II Corinthians 5:21). He was raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven (Romans 7:4). He is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.

Instead of seeing our sins, when we accept Jesus into our hearts, God only sees His Son's shed blood that covers us.

He has us covered. It doesn't matter what sin we commit, if we repent, God will forgive us.

Should we be afraid of God? No, we shouldn't nor should we be afraid that He is going to punish us. God loves us, and when He corrects us, He doesn't do it by sending lightning down from Heaven or taking things from us. Now if we don't respond to His correction, He will allow us to suffer the natural order of consequences.

Let's say that we become pregnant out of wedlock. God isn't going to cause our pregnancy to just go away. If we decide to give the baby up for adoption or have an abortion, God will allow us to suffer through the grieving process. Anytime we give up or lose something, we will have grief.

God will allow us to suffer the consequences for the choices we made. Because we chose to have sex before marriage, we will suffer the consequences--the break-up of the relationship, an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.

Did God put those things on us as a punishment? No. Let's put this in natural terms. Let's say, we are parents. We have told our daughter not to hang out with a certain group of friends. Now she is hanging out with them behind our back. She tries drugs, smoking and marks her body with tattoos.

We have told her repeatedly to stop her bad behaviors. We've lectured her. We've put her on restriction. We've taken away privileges. We've put her in counseling. Still her behavior is the same. When she becomes addicted to smoking and drugs, when she is caught stoned and driving, when she is found to be in possession of an illegal substance, she will be charged. Now did we punish her behavior by causing her to be charged by a police officer? No. Did we want that to happen? No. Then why did it happen? Because she made wrong choices. She suffered the consequences of her actions.

The same is true with God. He warns us not to do certain things in His Word. He even speaks to us about it through our conscience, through our spirits, when we flirt with danger. If we persist, He will restrict our effectiveness, our blessings. If we don't listen, He will allow us to suffer the consequences for our wrong actions.

Does He want us to suffer like that? No. Is He punishing us through it? No. Is He teaching us through it? No. We are just reaping what we sowed (Galatians 6:7). Plain and simple.

Sowing and reaping is a law that God set forth. He cannot, no matter how much He might want to, violate His own law. That would be like a police officer breaking the same laws he is trying to enforce. God's law of sowing and reaping works in nature. We plant a seed. We water it. We wait, and it grows. Every day we are sowing seeds with our time, our words and our money. We sow bad seeds. We sow good seeds. Either way we are going to reap a harvest. If we sow bad seeds, such as discouragement, complaining, cursing, arguing, judgment, we will reap a harvest of those things. If, however, we sow praise, compliments, understanding, then we will reap a harvest of those things,

We cannot sow bad and expect to reap good. We cannot sow good and expect to reap bad. It doesn't work that way. If we sow carrot seeds, we aren't going to reap lettuce or cucumbers. We are going to reap carrots.

Why do we expect a different principle when we sow in the supernatural? God created the principle of sowing and reaping. We sow whether we want to or not. Shouldn't we use it to bring good into our lives instead of bad?

God allows us to reap what we have sowed. He permits us to suffer the consequences for our choices. He doesn't like it any more than we do.

Should we teach that God will call down lightning from heaven to smite us if we do wrong? I think that instead of teaching fear in religion, we should teach love, as in perfect love casts out all fear (I John 4:18). God doesn't give us a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7). Countless times God tells us in the Bible not to fear.

Love conquers a multitude of sin (I Peter 4:8). God's love for us, His compassion for us, is what is important. What His Son did on the cross is important. Believing God loves usthat is important, but without that belief, we will live in fear of doing wrong. We will never live the life God intended us to live if we are always afraid. We need to believe in God and His love for us. We must do what He tells us to. Then we will experience life in abundance, to the full. until it overflows (John 10:10 AMP).

Annagail Lynes is a pharmacy technician, certified life coach and ordained minister. She is helping people move forward after trauma by helping them discover their purpose. Follow her blog at

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