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God's love and the fear of God
- Jacob Ninan
This is a paradoxical situation for the Christian. We recognise and believe in the great love God has for us, which He has demonstrated by sending His Son Jesus to die in our place for our sins (Ro.5:8). We recognise that His love for us is not because we are acceptable to Him, but because He is love. He loves us because that is His nature. He loves us whom He has created even though He sees everything in us that is unacceptable to His holiness and sense of righteousness. But the more we learn to enjoy this love, the more we are tempted to misuse it and take it as a license for sin. The more we know His love, the more we tend to ignore the fear of God.
On the other hand, those who fear and respect God and seek to obey Him in everything tend to be uncertain about His love for them! The more they try to be faithful to Him and to do His will, the more they become aware of how much they are in fact coming short of His standards. They wonder how God could be pleased with them when they themselves are not pleased with their lives.
But as someone said about many such paradoxes in Christian life, the solution is not to take one side as being more important than the other, but to hold both sides as being equally important and keep working on our lives to become compatible with both at the same time.
It is easy to take one side or the other, depending on factors such as how our natural temperament is inclined or what emphasis our local church provides. But this will invariably make our Christian life unbalanced. We can't afford to neglect one part of the truth in favour of another. We need to fear God and respect His commandments while at the same time being assured of His love for us irrespective of our spiritual attainments or failures.
Jesus said that if we loved Him we would keep His commandments (Jn.14:15). In other words, if we are not driven by love, we can't keep the commandments in the proper manner. On the other hand, if we are being negligent about keeping His commandments because we think He loves us, our love is not genuine.
There is a sense in which we experience God's love much more closely when we are faithful in our love for Him and in keeping His commandments than when are casual about faithfulness. This is the natural result of coming closer to Him. But if He loved us when we were His enemies He does not stop loving us when we sometimes fail as His children.
We love God because He loved us (1Jn.4:19). We don't want to grieve Him by taking sin lightly. Our love for God and our fear (respect) for God drive us to be careful in keeping His commandments.