All of this talk of parenting and punishment got me to thinking about why we obey God. A friend of mine asked if I obeyed the tenets of my faith because I was afraid of punishment (either of burning in hell or being otherwise “smited”). On the flip side, am I obedient strictly because of the possible privileges (either eternity in heaven or otherwise getting rewarded)?

I suppose in our capitalist way of thinking, reward and punishment isn’t a bad motivation for why we do things. The downside is that this places us only a hop, skip, and an apostasy from the prosperity gospel that has infected Christianity.

Ultimately, it paints a rather sad way to live. Fear of punishment is no way to establish and maintain a relationship. It’s the kind of “love me … or else!” mentality of an abusive parent, a relationship build on fear which is quite the opposite of love. I do think there is a fearful element to God, one built of awe and majesty, of the transcendent and a fear of losing that which is precious.

Part of me wonders if this “fear of punishment” mentality stems from the fact of the Gospel message having been reduced to a legal transaction (Christ’s sacrifice balancing the scales of cosmic justice) or presented at Christ sparing us from the hands of an angry God (leading to a get your own butt into heaven, save yourself sort of salvation).

So why should I be obedient? Why should I love God? Is it a matter of “because I said so” (the oldest of parental justifications)? Do we love God because he first loved us, thus we have a debt to love him? Do we also love him because it is in our best interest to do so? Is any of this the kind of love we want to build a relationship on? Do we love God because it is the natural response for all that he has done for us?

Someone want to jump in here and save me from my spiraling thoughts?*

*This is one of those times when my faith is pretty simple: I love God because … he’s God. I love my parents not because I’m scared of them or want into their will, but because they’re my parents. They first loved me and love tends to reciprocate. It’s not a matter of debt or obligation. God’s law is relational, Him stepping into my life to guide and protect. Obedience sustains the relationship. It’s love in practice.

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