1Jn 4:18 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.
None of us have been perfectly perfected in regard to love. As we grow in Christ, He shows us the ramifications of His love more and more with the result that fear diminishes more and more. While there will always be the positive, healthy, and right “fear of the Lord” by which we honor and obey Him, the kind of fear John is speaking of is not a positive trait. It is a fear that results from punishment in a relationship. We used to fear God in this sense because, before we came to Christ, we were under righteous condemnation by Him. We were guilty. The Law showed us our guilt and was a means of driving us to embrace Christ.
But now that we are in Christ – if you have been born again by faith alone in Christ alone – then this is your status:
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The more we come to understand this, the more this fear which results from punishment will dissolve.
Now, what I want to talk to you about today is this business of fear in our relationships with people. Fear that is the kind of fear that results from punishment. A child, for instance, should have this kind of fear in the sense of knowing that if he disobeys his mother or father, he is going to be punished. At the same time, that parent-child relationship must be characterized by love, and the child must know this as well.
But in respect to our relationship now, now that we are adults (or even let’s say in our teen years), fear that is the result of punishment is something that evil people use to hold us in bondage. In this respect, fear is a huge red flag that a relationship is toxic. You often hear domestic abuse victims talk about having to “walk on eggshells” lest their abuser punish them with one of his evil tactics. This is just another way of describing the fear that dominates in such a relationship.
Lately I have been particularly interested in how a matriarchal abuser uses fear of punishment to enslave her family members. Of course most domestic abusers are men, but as I said, of late this business of the mother working an evil domination over her family has been in the forefront.
Whenever one of our relationships with someone is characterized by fear, something is terribly wrong. And I mean the fear that is the fear of punishment.
This thing is sooooo wicked. It creeps up on us. Very often it is present in families and the children grow up in that kind of fear-drenched environment, becoming what many people call “adult children” who keep right on fearing punishment from, for instance, their mother. It is this fear that is the vise holding us to that poisonous relationship. Fear that if we don’t do what we are told, fear that if we do not think what we told to think, fear that if we in anyway step out of the authorized path – we will be punished. Scowls, that “tone” in mother’s voice, a tirade of anger, the silent treatment, playing the victim role – on and on and on this evil arsenal goes. AND IT IS ALL DESIGNED TO ENSLAVE US BY FEAR.
I want to tell you loud and clear – any relationship in our lives that is characterized by fear of punishment is a relationship that the Lord wants us to be free from.
Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
The thought of freedom from this tyrrany – from, for instance, a mother’s tyranny – can at first be fearful in itself. Think of the Israelites on that great day when the Lord led them out of slavery in Egypt. I bet many of them were afraid. What will Pharaoh do? And sure enough when they stopped at the Red Sea, here he came! Even across the Red Sea there were many times when they grumbled and said things like “let’s go back to Egypt where we had leeks and garlic to eat.” The enemy of our souls does not give us up easily. When you resolve to be free you can expect that Pharaoh is going to come chasing after you. But then, the Lord parts the Sea and shows us that path to freedom.
Love casts out this fear of punishment:
Rom 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Did you know that you can live in this freedom from fear-of-punishment relationships? It’s true. You can live free from a narcissist, enslaving, terrorizing mother or other such person – and you will thrive. The enemy wants you to think that you cannot. That a life without that toxin is just impossible. Slavery to it is all you have known – how will you go on? Well, the answer is – Christ! When you are cast out, He will be there to greet you and once you see Him, I mean REALLY see Him and experience the love He has for you, you will never ever want to go back to Egypt.
Let the enemy roar. Let mother weep and wail and rage. We are going to follow Christ and we are not going to permit the wicked to drive us back into slavery. Never.