A theology based on the fear of God can be an obstacle to moral progress and other unwanted consequences. We discuss and defend God’s justice more than His love. Really though justice is simply an aspect of God’s love. God’s love was center stage in Scriptures (I John 4:8). A survey of the times “fear of God” is used in the Bible suggests fearing God was synonymous with fearing evil. Those who deny their horrible evil acts should be warned. The Bible never says “believe or go to Hell” as if that would lead one to a relationship with God anyway.
It turns out Hell is not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Hell was an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. The Hebrew word Sheol in the OT is often translated as “Hell.” Sheol was simply a region or place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs. Job desired to go there to escape his tremendous suffering (10:21 -22). The Greek word Gehenna in the NT is wrongly translated as Hell. Gehenna is a proper noun and was the name of a real, literal, valley nearby Jerusalem that had a history. Hell is no more a translation of Gehenna than Atlanta is for Chicago.
The Bible never speaks of eternal punishment or torment to deter or punish behaviors. Laws were given to warn and punish wrongdoing. What gives us the right to heap on more from God? Are we concerned that intimacy with our Creator is not attractive enough? Jesus detested the religious of His day who suggested a relationship with God was adherence to a bunch of rules. Telling children and adults that they are going to burn forever if they don’t stop sinning can riddle them with fear. Such talk doesn’t lead to intimacy with one’s Creator and creates a false image of God. Jesus never threatened Hell to lead one to a relationship with God.
Fear in relationships may deter in the short-run but doesn’t lead to lifelong transformations. The fear of punishment doesn’t prevent one from finding ways to hide their actions. Obligatory obedience doesn’t lead to reflections how to better ourselves, only to reach certain “good” standards. Do we truly love our partner if we are successful 85% of the time? Focusing on our goodness doesn’t produce genuine love toward others and can lead to a false pride. We may be tempted to puff ourselves up over others and minimize others’ works because they have a checkered past or their works are not as great or numerous as ours. Has gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor conquered battles against self-centeredness or long standing habitual sins for you?
We often are not invited to know God and understand how much He loves us so a true friendship can develop. God’s love, not His fear, is what can transform us into the kind of person we truly want to be. time. Understanding God’s unconditional love can inspire as does such parental love. God is the eternal optimist. It is never too late to start in God’s eyes. God’s accounting system is different than ours (Mt 20). God is always waiting with open, loving arms for those who desire to be loved and encouraged. God’s love and His mercy is our necessary nourishment. We can start each day feeling accepted rather than rejected. The beauty of the relationship is loving God is loving yourself and others to the fullest.
We understand in human relationships it is far better to be motivated by love than fear. Serving a boss out of respect than obligation empowers to be our best. It always inspires to follow because we want to than have to. Relationships based on fear can lead to temporary changes but not lifelong transformations. Intimacy which can inspire is never obtained. Parents ultimately want their children to understand their unconditional love for them so they might follow their wisdom for their own good. God is no different as a Parent.