Living In Fear of Consequences
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
While using drugs, I lived in constant fear. I knew what I was doing was wrong and I knew that it could cost me my job, career, and marriage. I was addicted though, unwilling to do what it took to get help, and I couldn’t stop. So, I lived in fear. I was constantly afraid that God’s patience with me would run out. I was constantly afraid that my secret would be discovered. I was right to be fearful. All the things I was afraid of – and much worse – eventually happened. While I was using drugs, engaging in life-wrecking behavior, it was appropriate that I lived in fear of the consequences.
Now, in recovery, I don’t live in fear of getting fired because I’m not doing anything that would cause that to happen. I don’t live in fear of losing my family because I’m no longer indulging in life-wrecking behavior. There is tremendous freedom and relief that comes with getting sober and finding recovery. Attempting to follow God’s way instead of my own and living in a right relationship with him has been the solution to my fear of judgment.
This seems to be the tone of today’s passage. In it, John said that God’s love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment (1 John 4:17). Because of God’s love, we don’t have to live in fear of his punishment. This is the blessed news of the gospel – that our sins are forgiven, and we no longer need to live in fear of our past.
The mistake that I’ve made though, is to abuse this freedom that comes with God’s love and forgiveness. If God loves me, then the strings between action and consequence have been cut. I can do whatever I want and get away with it. This though, isn’t living in God’s love. This is living for myself, doing whatever I want. This is turning my back on God. In doing so, I return to my old life, and I should live in fear.
If we’re living in fear of the consequences of our self-destructive, sinful behavior, the solution isn’t to convince ourselves that God loves us and would never allow anything bad to happen. The solution is to abandon our way, embracing God’s love, grace, and mercy. We don’t get to enjoy the benefits of God’s love while we turn our backs on him. We enjoy the freedom and courage of God’s love, only as we daily choose to live in it.