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Sunday, September 22, 2019

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Our religious motives should be based on our love, not fear of God

Our religious motives should be based on our love, not fear of God

A parishioner once told her pastor, “If I did not believe in hell, I would do some cutting up.”

So her pastor asked her, “Would you steal?”

She said, “Oh I couldn’t do that?”

“Would you kill anyone?”

She said, “Never!”

“Would you be unfaithful to your husband?”

“Of course not, I love him too much.”

So he said “You really wouldn’t live in any way different from the way you’re living now, would you?”

She said, “Well, I guess not.”

The belief in Hell should not be our motivation for living a good life. It’s our belief in God: God’s love for us as our wonderful creator, our belief in Jesus as our savior and our trust in the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts. Our relationship to our Loving God should be our motivating force for all that we do.

In the first letter to Timothy, Paul says, “God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) That’s another way of saying God wants a relationship with all of us. However, do we want a real relationship with God? It’s not enough to be born into a Christian family. It’s not enough to have a casual, on-again-off-again relationship with God.

Jesus told us if we want to get to the kingdom, we must come through a narrow door: the narrow door of a right relationship with God, the narrow door of right living. That door demands a commitment and surrender to Jesus as Lord of our lives.

One big problem for many Christians and others is defining who is our God. We all do not have the same God. If God is seen as a demanding Judge, a Lawgiver, a Mighty King, a Commander who gives orders, and if we see ourselves as soldiers who must obey or go to hell, then we will not have a loving relationship with the God that Jesus revealed.

In the first letter of St. John, we read, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because God first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19) Psalm 111 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps 111:10) However, love is the end.

If we imagine that God is the Supreme Lawgiver who makes sure we do not break any laws, then we are going to live in fear and not in love. We will do “holy things” like praying and worshiping because we want to placate God so the Almighty will not be mad at us. However, when we fear, we act out of obligation, not love.

Jesus revealed the true nature of God in many parables and stories but the most striking one is the prodigal son. The son selfishly wasted his inheritance in a sinful life and came back to his father hungry but not totally repentant and yet was embraced by the Father with great joy. Jesus told that parable to show us the infinite love God has for all of us sinners and to assure us of God’s compassionate forgiveness.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved” (Jn 10:7-9).

Jesus also said, “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12)

The narrow door is a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Try to get in touch with who is your true God. God does not change but our perception of our Lord does. Also, get in touch with your motivation for acting: is it fear, obligation or love? You cannot have a real relationship with God (or anyone else), if it is based on fear or obligation.