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From Fear To Love: Motivations In The Christian Search For God

1803 words - 7 pages

With weary eyes, wretched souls, and wounded hearts, people pray to God for deliverance. Throughout salvation history, in times of suffering, grief, and strife, fear motivates people to seek refuge in God. Simultaneously, love inspires people to remain steadfast in God, trusting that, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian 80). Both fear and love dynamically shape the Christian search for God. The following essay will, firstly, examine how Israel’s state of fear and oppression in Exodus, in contrast with John’s assurance of love, shapes understandings of God; secondly, explore how fear “pushes” and love “pulls” Augustine closer to God; thirdly, discuss the respective comfort and liberation theologies of Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, and Elizabeth Johnson as remedies for fear and advocations for love; and ultimately show that fear motivates people, pushing them towards God’s sanctuary, and love inspires people, pulling them towards God’s salvation.
Fear steals the spotlight in Exodus where suffering besets the Hebrews slaving away as the dregs of life under cruel Pharaoh. Hebrew servitude to the Egyptian Pharaoh eliminates any essence of Israel’s identity. Constant suffering drives the Hebrews to demand deliverance from oppression. From their fear, they cry out to God in anguish. They beg God to save them from affliction and believe the Egyptians should equally suffer to atone for the brutal treatment of Hebrew slaves. Therefore, the Hebrews shade God with wrathful wonder, both powerfully and vengefully, to invigorate the desolate state of Israelite morale. To provide security from fear, the Hebrews anthropomorphize God with a “mighty hand” which will strike Egypt (Exodus 3:19-20). God reveals to Moses His plans to annihilate Egypt with ten plagues of wondrous wrath, which will compel stubborn Pharaoh to free the Hebrews. From a state of fear, the Hebrew people find security in their powerful God of judgment and vengeance.
While fear, in Exodus, motivates the people to cry for God’s help, in the Gospel of John, love inspires the people to find faith in Christ. John reveals the clearest and ultimate expression of love: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The people tremble in fear no longer. Now, joyous love sweetly sings in celebration. The people should simply believe in Christ to find faith and subsequent salvation. Therefore, love inspires Christians to color their redeeming God with deep hues of saving grace. Furthermore, Jesus’ seven signs show a striking shift in the manifestation of God’s miracles throughout salvation history. In Exodus, God smites Egypt with wonders of wrath and plagues of life-destruction; now in John, Jesus performs signs of healing and life-restoration. Though the purpose of God’s miracles remains consistent–to amaze, astonish, and inspire the people to...

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