Another comment from the peanut gallery caught my eye other day, “why do you follow Christ?” It was not a question being asked with any genuine interest, but rather one repeated with much nagging, hoping to imply that we follow Christ based on cowardice, fear of punishment, and threats of hell.
I call it the Al Capone defense for non belief. The concept alleges that God is engaging in extortion, that people only believe because we fear going to hell, and that any God that would engage in such threats and need for power and control over us, is not worthy of believing in.
This is an argument against faith that I find somewhat heart breaking, because the roots of this conundrum often stem from abuse, from misunderstood authority, from deep wounding that fears being taken advantage of, controlled, exploited, victimized.
It is sad to me, many people have a very negative perception of authority, that it is all about fear, power, control, punishment. Those are human perceptions, often gleaned from the school of hard knocks where might makes right. That is not God however, that is God being created in our own image, in the image of those who have misused authority and done harm to us.
I don’t wish to imply that God has no authority or that salvation and redemption are not a significant part of the story or that chastisement never occurs, but fear, control, and punishment is not the whole story. In fact, perfect love casts out fear. Freewill flies in the face of control, and mercy and redemption to be found on the cross, speaks to Christ taking our punishment upon His own self.
So why do you follow? The same reason why one might just close their eyes and feel the music, why we lean in for a kiss, why we fall in love. Following Christ is like gulping down cool water after roaming about in the desert, or breaking the surface of a lake when you are starved for oxygen. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise…” That is where you will find Christ, in the good things, in the sweetness of life. God is a Holy God, beyond our ability to perceive Him fully, but whatsoever things are lovely are to be found there.
He came to give us life more abundant. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
I pray that those who have been wounded by abuse and misplaced authority, would wrap those words about them tightly, lean into Him, and trust that what you will find there is love and not condemnation and fear.