Christian Errors on The Subject of Fear and Love of God
In Genuine Faith, Love of God Is Experienced Together with Fear of God
The basis of all righteous religions is love. In time, some people who appear in the name of God, and strive to manipulate religion, sometimes promote terror, war, massacre and lovelessness in the name of religion. Albeit they claim to advocate religion, these people are definitely ignorant and imposters, because God does not desire any wrongdoing or strife; rather He desires love, friendship, and peace for His servants.
The purpose of the information here is this: some Christians depict their faith as a religion of love while they consider Judaism, and especially Islam, as religions based on fear. However, this is a serious error. All true religions, especially Islam, preach love, friendship, and call people to peace and brotherhood, for these are what God demands from us. Those who propose any other conception are lying in the name of true religion. The essence and basis of religion is love. (You can find statements of ours on the subject of Islam being a religion of love in the pages that follow.)
Surely, our Christian brothers are right in believing in the purity of love. However, some of them interpret the concept of love in a desperate and erroneous way. It is a great danger for these people to eliminate fear of God from their lives on the basis of the idea that fear has no place in love.
The Actual Meaning of Fear of God
Before explaining the kinds of danger that may result from misconceptions on this subject, it is of great importance to understand what the "fear of God" really is. The majority of people misunderstand the meaning of the fear of God, and also claim that fear results in involuntary faith, which would render that faith invalid. However, this is not what fear of God means.
The fear of God is to submit to God with awe, with a fear that is derived from deep and abiding respect. Meanwhile, one should avoid any attitude or thought with which God will not be pleased solely due to one's deep love of God. It is a fear of losing the love of God. For a believer, to lose the friendship of God is an even worse pain than the sufferings of hell.
Love of God and fear of God are part of a single whole. Fear and love of God become one when a person who loves God very deeply fears committing an act that will offend God. This is actually the "fear of God" that a person who loves God experiences. A person who truly loves God remains loyal to Him with passion, affection, and loves no matter what conditions he may be under or how much hardship he may undergo. No conditions, occurrences or hardships can overshadow it or hinder it. Fear of losing the love of God constantly motivates a person who experiences the love of God: It gives him joy. It is impossible for such a person to be careless in performing his acts of worship, to intentionally have any flaws in his role as servant or to recklessly engage in unlawful deeds. Throughout his life, a person of such sincere faith will do his best to please God.
The necessity of God's wrath on unbelievers
The Avenger, one of the names of God, is misinterpreted or intentionally distorted by some people. The wrath of God is only upon cruel people, hypocrites, those who commit fraud in the name of God and furious unbelievers. To believers, on the other hand, God gives a sense of full security and ease. In one verse of the Koran, God gives the news that there will be no fear for those who believe, including Christians:
Those who have faith and those who are Jews and the Sabaeans and the Christians, all who have faith in God and the Last Day and act rightly will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Koran, 5:69)
A person remains immune from God's wrath as long as he serves God and strives to earn His good pleasure. God takes revenge only on those who are cruel. This is the law of God. A human is in deep fear of God's wrath only when he acts wrongly. However, when he engages in good deeds and strives to earn God's good pleasure, he trusts in God and his conscience remains at ease.
The attribute of God described in the title the Avenger is a great blessing for believers. For instance, seeing that a person who mistreats a little girl and then murders her is punished in the hereafter and thus seeing the manifestation of God's justice is a great blessing for a believer. This repayment a cruel person receives in the hereafter is also a great blessing for the child who was mistreated. That is why, in the same way that paradise is a blessing for believers, so hell is where cruel people are punished. Both paradise and hell are the places where God's infinite justice is manifested in the hereafter. Those who strive to oppress prophets, those who betrayed Jesus (pbuh), or murdered innocent children and others have been - and will be - repaid by our Lord as a requisite of His beautiful name, the Avenger. The opportunity to repent is surely available to each one of them in this world. However, repayment of those who are arrogant and do not repent is a relief for those who are exposed to cruelty and those who see such things happening. Consequently, the Avenger title of God brings joy to a person of faith who has a conscience.
Mercy is a subject that must be very well evaluated. It is God Who teaches us mercy. If God so willed, nobody on Earth might know of such a feeling. All people would live bereft of the feeling of mercy. It is therefore the height of ignorance and a crime to seek to produce as evidence against God something that He has created and teaches, or to have the effrontery to seek to teach mercy to Him [may God forbid]. God is infinitely merciful. It is Almighty God Who best knows how people's natures are created, and who deserves mercy and who merits punishment. Nobody will suffer the slightest injustice in the hereafter. God is infinitely just, and everyone will be justly judged in the hereafter. Some passages from the Gospel that refer to our Lord's infinite justice are as follows:
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to Him Who judges justly. (1 Peter 2: 23)
Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians, 3:25)
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil... but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good... For God does not show favoritism. (Romans, 2: 9-11)
God "will repay each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Romans, 2:6-8)
God is not unjust [God is surely beyond that]; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. (Hebrews, 6:10)
God reveals thus in the Koran:
We will set up the Just Balance on the Day of Resurrection, and no self will be wronged in any way. Even if it is no more than the weight of a grain of mustard-seed, We will produce it. We are sufficient as a Reckoner. (Koran, 21:47)
If every self that did wrong possessed everything on Earth, it would offer it as a ransom (as a provision for wrath). They will conceal remorse when they see the punishment. Everything will be decided between them justly. They will not be wronged. (Koran, 10:54)
Fear of God is Essential in Order to be a Good Servant of God and to Deserve Paradise
What is explained above are great facts that motivate a person of faith. The outlook of a person who really loves God and thus seriously fears of having any flaws in his role as a servant of God is totally different from of that other people. Such a person does not commit unlawful deeds and does not neglect acts of worship or remain heedless to the voice of his conscience. In brief, he remains extraordinarily meticulous in everything he does in order to earn God's good pleasure. Such a person is scrupulous, not egotistical, and until the end of his life, he remains self-sacrificing and compassionate. Such a person never does any harm to others, and greatly fears doing something for which he will not be able to account to God. He lives every moment of his life aware that he will account to God for his actions and that God watches him every moment. Aware that the real life is not in the life of this world but in the hereafter, he feels the joy and fervor of loving God. This fervor in no way abates until the end of his life. Therefore, a person who has a fear of God lives in abundance and blessings.
In the Gospel, fear of God is described in the following words and thus Christians are called to have fear of God:
… live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear [of God]. (1 Peter, 1:17)
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (2 Corinthians 5:11)
… Your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets and Your people who revere Your Name, both great and small—and for destroying those who destroy the Earth. (Revelation 11:18)
… let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)
If a person is not in awe of being a good servant to God, and he claims to have love of God but does little to nothing to earn God's good pleasure, yet still asserts that merely his love of God suffices for deliverance in the hereafter, then that person is making a grave error. Such an idea is not compatible with the sincerity God asks for. Fear of God is the most basic element that encourages man in being a better servant to God. Therefore, someone who regards fear of God as unnecessary (surely God is beyond that) and who thinks that love of God alone is sufficient will not live in a state of fear and hope. That will prevent that person from constantly striving to earn God's approval and mercy, and constantly lead him to sloth.
This is the position of some Christians who reject the importance of having fear of God, and simply maintain that love of God is sufficient. Consequently, these people need to reflect once again over the meaning of the fear of God in the manner as it is described above and to abide by the call of the Gospel, that is, "[to] worship God acceptably with reverence and awe."
Those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabaeans and the Christians,
all who believe in God and the Last Day and act rightly will
feel no fear and will know no sorrow.