As we examine this passage through the lens of Biblical parenting, we can learn four foundational truths that will transform our relationship with our children, but also our relationship with God:
- There is no fear in love.
Fear and love are mutually exclusive. This is just as true in our relationship with God as it is with our children. When love is present, fear cannot be found. When I am fully aware of God’s love for me, I will have no reason to fear. Likewise, when our children are fully aware of our love for them, they will have no reason to fear. If there is fear in our hearts or in the hearts of our children, that should be a warning sign that there is either a lack of love or a lack of awareness of that love.
- Perfect love casts out fear.
The love that is referred to in this passage is the Greek word “agape.” Agape love is a willful delight, goodwill and benevolence towards someone. While this verse states that perfect love casts out fear, the only one who truly loves perfectly is God Himself because He is love (1 John 4:8). How can imperfect people possibly love with a perfect love? In order to answer this question, we must understand the meaning of the Greek word “teleios.” Teleios – while translated as “perfect” – does not mean flawless, but rather it means a love that is mature, finished and complete. Only God can love with a flawless love, but we can absolutely love our children in a way that is mature and complete. The result of that kind of love will be that fear will be cast out. Just as the presence of light makes darkness disappear, the presence of love makes fear disappear.
- Fear involves punishment.
The word translated in this phrase as “involves” is the Greek word “echo.” Ironically enough, this word is used 648 times in the Bible, but is only translated as “involves” one time. It means “to have; to possess; to be closely joined to a person or thing.” Fear is closely joined to punishment. Punishment is purposefully causing pain (whether physical or emotional) and produces fear within our hearts. When you think about going to Hell or being punished by God for your sins, how do you feel? Fear. When a child is about to be punished with a spanking, what does he feel? Fear. However, we do not need to fear punishment anymore because Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin when He laid down His life for His sheep on the cross. There is NO MORE PUNISHMENT for us! This is the beauty of the Gospel. If there is no more punishment for us, then why do we insist upon punishing our children? What if we interacted with our children based on the truth that all of their punishment for all of their sins has already been satisfied by the blood of Jesus Christ?
- The one who fears is not perfected in love.
Do you fear? When was the last time you felt afraid? Think back on that moment. How differently would that moment have been if you were fully convinced and aware of God’s deep love, care and affection for you? We do not need to fear anything anymore! Sickness, poverty, death, the Devil, Hell – Jesus has overcome it all through His blood on the cross! His love has been perfected for us and in us. Again, any fear in my heart should be a red flag that I am not living in the reality of the truth that I am fully forgiven and fully loved by God. Imagine what it would be like to parent from that reality – that my child is fully forgiven and fully loved by God (and by me).
I pray that the power of these truths would be evident in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your children. Within this verse, we see the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross. Because of His sacrifice on our behalf and in our place, God no longer relates to us according to our sins (Psalm 103:10). Are there consequences for our sin? Of course. But there is no longer any punishment for us.
What would it be like to parent your child without punishing them?
Are you worried that they would never obey and just run around wild?
Notice the heart behind this worry – “if there is no punishment for them to fear, they will never obey.”
Again, we see the connection between fear and punishment.
However, God does not want us to obey Him because we fear punishment. God wants us to obey Him because He loves us, we know that He loves us and because we love Him. The fact that God loved us enough to pour our punishment out upon His Son, Jesus, on the cross is what motivates us to obey. We can trust that His perfect love will perfect us.
God wants our obedience to be motivated by love and not fear of punishment!
As parents, we should desire the same for our children.
- What do you fear?
- What aspect of God’s love are you doubting in that fear?
- Are you obeying God out of love or fear of punishment?
- Do your children obey you out or love or fear of punishment?
- How does God relate to you now that Jesus has fulfilled all your punishment?
- How does it feel to know that because of Jesus, there is no more punishment for you?
- What would it be like to parent without punishment?
- What concerns do you have about living out the reality of the Gospel that Jesus has taken all of our punishment on the cross?
- What attitudes do you have that cause fear in your children?
- What actions do you take that cause fear in your children?
- How can you repent of those attitudes/actions?
- What could you do instead of punishing your children? (If you’re not sure, pray about it and check back here soon!)