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WHY THE THREAT?
No one ever threatened me to do something that was wonderful
to do. My parents didn’t threaten me with punishment to get me to go to Disneyland. But to make me go to the dentist or work on the vineyard, that was another matter.
So if I am told that I must love God or he will throw me into hell, I might well consider loving him—or at least pretend I do. But if the only reason I’m even responding to him is to serve my own self-interest and escape a fiery eternity in hell, am I really loving him or myself?
Can a true friendship blossom under so grave a threat? Let’s say I approach a recent acquaintance of mine, hoping to deepen our friendship. I say to him, “I have really appreciated the time we’ve been able to spend together. In fact, I’d like to see our relationship deepen and maybe even become best friends. How would you like to spend some time together over the next few months and see if that kind of friendship develops?”
So far, so good! But what if I added one more sentence? “I hope you do, because if you don’t, I’m going to hunt you down and torture you for the rest of your life.” Hasn’t the invitation just taken an ominous turn? Even if he wanted to explore the potential of a friendship with me, it has now been twisted by my threat. What does it say about me, and how will he ever feel safe in a friendship cultivated on fear?
How many of us have turned to Christ out of fear of eternal punishment in Hell?
Was this method modeled to us by Christ? Do we think crowds followed Jesus as He ministered to them because they feared His wrath if they didn't? Or was there some positive qualities about Jesus and his message that they desired?
Has the way our relationship with Christ started impacted our view of God and our relationship with Him now?