“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)?
The Jews of Paul’s day and the religious legalists of our day have a hard time with this statement. They refuse to believe that the goodness of God is sufficient motivation for people to turn from sin. They insist that fear of punishment is a greater motivator than the perfect love of God.
Fear is indeed a motivator. Even a lost person or struggling Christian can identify with fear and respond to it. But as 1 John 18 says, “Fear involves torment.” Those who respond to God through fear will also be tormented with thoughts of doubt and condemnation as to whether they have done enough. Fear will move some toward God, but it is inferior to love. There is nothing that fear can do that love can’t do better and without torment.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
There is no fear in God’s kind of love. Only His perfect love casts out fear. If we are experiencing fear, we aren’t experiencing God’s love for us. God’s perfect agape love removes fear.
Those motivated to seek God because of fear will cease to be motivated when things are going well. They become the ones who only pray when they are in trouble. Those who serve God out of fear of punishment won’t work long. They eventually turn away because they fear they will never measure up.
If they just knew the perfect love of God for them they would turn back to the Lord! Those who come to God because of His goodness will see God as the source of their success and continue to serve Him in the good and the bad times.
The world and religious legalists have used the negative motivation of fear. The Gospel draws us with the positive motivation of God’s agape love. His grace is the answer to all our sins.
God loves you completely. He doesn’t withhold His love from you. If you have turned away—for whatever reason—don’t allow fear to keep you from Him. His perfect love casts out your fear. He waits with open arms. His goodness draws you to repentance.
Just come home.