Tuesday, January 13, 2009

God's Love, Fear, Rewards and Punishments

Here's a brief article that a one of my friends on Facebook sent me. I really liked it, so I thought I would share it with you. The name of the source is at the bottom of the post.

God's dealings with man are not limited to our legalistic ideas about reward and punishment. Salvation, which is the ultimate goal of Christian life, is not a "reward" but a gift freely given by God. We cannot "earn" or "merit" it by anything we do, no matter how pious or self-effacing we think ourselves.

In everyday life we naturally think that good deeds should be rewarded and crimes punished. But our God does not "punish" on the basis of human standards. He corrects and chastizes us, just as a loving father corrects his erring children in order to show them the way. But this is not the same thing as being "sentenced" to a "term" of pain and suffering for some misdeed. Our God is not vindictive; He is at all times perfectly loving, and His justice has nothing to do with human legal standards.

He knows that we cannot come to Him without purity of heart, and He also knows that we cannot acquire this purity unless we are free from all things: free from attachments to money and property, free of passion and sin, and even detached from bodily health if that stands in between us and true freedom before God. He instructs us, through both revelation and correction, showing us how we may acquire this freedom, for 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:32). As St. John Cassian teaches:

"God leads you on by a still higher step to that love which is free of fear. Through this you begin effortlessly and naturally to observe all those things you originally observed out of fear of God and punishment, but now you do them no longer from fear of punishment, but from love of Goodness itself, and delight in virtue." (Institutes)

Anonymous - The Teaching of the Fathers ON ILLNESS
page 6-7, Nikodemos Orthodox Publications Society, 1986


Anonymous said...

ng these uplifting words! yes, those attachments are hell...literally. Shaking off the shakles, with God's help is wearing me down, but I hope in God's mercy and pray for strength, and for a focus on his loving mercy.

charlene said...

Oh Father,
This is such a beautiful piece! I don't know how I managed to miss this posting the other day. Just reading it is enough to bring rushing back the Taste of Heaven, the great joy and tremendus peace of experiencing God's love. I think that the more you experience that love, the more you want to change your life in hopes that you will never lose being able to feel that love. Thank you , thank you , thank you for this post.