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Punishment's Peace

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 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. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:15-19

Fear has to do with punishment. Punishment isn't just being sent to my room but its also "deserved consequence" or earned suffering. I've begun to see that many of my anxieties are these kinds of fears.


Self-righteousness is the deception that I can be (or think I am) above reproach in some particular area because I followed some known rules or was better at that thing than everyone around me or experienced success in an area that I think is entirely to my credit. The flip side of this is the condemnation of my failure to achieve perfect righteousness in a given area, from financial prudence to loss of temper to disciplined physical fitness to everything under the sun that makes me feel in good standing or bad standing as a human.


So, then, this Gospel understanding of fear or anxiety seems like another manifestation of my self-righteousness because it assumes that worst-case scenarios are within my ability to avoid if only I get it right...or the people around me get it right. "This" (horrible outcome) can be avoided if I just follow the instructions, if I just connect the dots correctly, and if I just remember which wire to cut to disable the bomb. Avoiding the worst-case outcome is within my reach if I just get it right.


By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved,if our heart does not condemn us,we have confidence before God; 1 John 3:19-21

"Whenever our heart condemns us"would best describe that fear and anxiety for me. "If I had just..., if I hadn't just..., if I would just..., if I would never..." But I didn't, or I did, or I won't, or I inevitably will... My heart condemns because like Adam and Eve running behind that tree and wrapping in fig leaves, it knows right and wrong even when it doesn't act accordingly. My heart condemns me because it is what I deserve. Fear has to do with punishment.


Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

Do I believe that Jesus has taken my punishment past, present, and future? This is the love that casts out all fear (and anxiety and worry). Do I believe that Jesus was pierced for my transgressions of undisciplined money management, parenting fails, bad moods, inconsistent spiritual discipleship of my children, refusal to serve my neighbor, selfishness, greediness, laziness, unpreparedness, naivete, and all the other undisclosed or unrealized iniquities? Do I trust, really trust, that His punishment brings, (delivers, invites, permits, allows, encourages, lavishes upon me), "my peace"?


But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

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