Updated on September 11, 2016
Heaven = Shame : At least that’s what I thought
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
When I was a kid, I remember being very worried one day while enjoying a chocolate bar. I was worrying that Jesus might come back that very minute, and I’d have to leave my yummy chocolate treat behind.
That was a very real concern for a child like me.In my youth, among many wonderful things I learned about God, I also learned that he was a harsh judge. That screwing up, however minor that might be, would result in having my many sins scroll across the large screen of heaven for all the inhabitants to see.
Heaven = Shame
That wasn’t an accurate depiction of God, that was fear. It was manipulation. It was misguided and a means to control behavior.
As I’ve matured in my faith and knowledge of God, I have become acutely more aware of the love of God and how that love can drive out those childish fears I had. Yet, I see the use of fear in the church still to this day, and I wonder why we have gone on so long believing that the message of fear will literally scare the hell out of people.
It all boils down to shame. We perceive that if we can make people feel ashamed enough about their actions, attitudes and behaviors, we might just “get them saved.” The longstanding perception is that if we give people too much freedom, they will use their “salvation” as a license to sin.
In 1st John chapter 4, John writes about the gift of God’s love for us, a love so amazing that he sent his son to atone for our sins. A love so incredible that if we would only love him back, we would know him. And all he asks in return is that we love others.
“For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” v. 20
Jesus himself commanded us to love God and love others. (Matthew 22) Those were the two greatest commands, and he expects us to live them. But according to John, we cannot truly, authentically love God if we are not loving others. That’s radical love. That’s the calling of Jesus on our lives.
We tend to think that spiritual maturity is all wrapped up in how well we have learned the Bible, how much we know about God and how well we defend our faith. I think we’ve been misguided. Spiritual maturity is evidenced by how well we love.
If we’re not loving others we are not spiritually mature.
And isn’t that the point, the issue, the heart? We have tried and failed to “win souls for Jesus” by talking and pontificating and judging and pointing out sin and making people feel shame for all the terrible things they have done. We fail to see the point of Jesus’ message and John’s message.
Perfect love drives out fear!
Where complete love is, fear cannot exist.
I know we want to believe that if we love people and don’t give them boundaries, they will use their freedom in Christ to sin. But perhaps we need to rethink that. Maybe, perfect love, complete in Christ, inspires us to love God and love others. And if someone is doing that, there’s little worry that they will use their freedom as a license to sin. Instead, let’s encourage each other to do good things because we are loved, not because we are trying to be loved.
Do you live in fear that every infraction you commit will somehow be thrown in your face when you get to heaven someday? Does your behavior come from a heart of fear or a heart that loves God and loves others? Think about that this week, and start living in the freedom of knowing that your sins have been forgotten, never to be brought up again. You are loved. You are forgiven. Don’t let fear keep you from living in that hope.