In my previous post The Myth of the Eternal Carrot I discussed how people who follow after Jesus because of the reward of Heaven are cheapening the relationship that they can have with him now. Their motivation is on what they get out of it not on what Christ can do through them or on the love them have for him. I believe that the Eternal Carrot also points to another poison within the lives of many who follow Jesus: fear. Fear drives many people to do whatever it takes to get the carrot so that they do not go to hell. Fear can be a powerful motivator and many pastors have used fear to sway people into Christianity. There is a profound Islamic prayer that is from an unknown source that addresses both of these aspects within faith and points to a beautifully described third option. While the prayer’s origins may be from Islam they are just as relevant to Christianity.
“My Lord, if I worship you in fear of the fire, burn me in hell. If I worship you in desire for paradise, deprive me of it. But if I worship you in love of you, then deprive me not of your eternal beauty.”
Fear is at the core of the Eternal Carrot, a fear of hell, a fear of falling short and a fear of getting what we know we deserve. The problem is fear has no place in following Jesus. Fear is not a part of what Jesus came to preach and it is not a part of the Gospel message.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:18-19
Perfect love casts out fear. It is through love that we come to follow and worship Jesus. Jesus’ perfect love in his life, death, burial and resurrection drives out all fear of punishment. Love is the motivator for following Jesus and love of Jesus leads us to experience, as the author stated, his eternal beauty here and now and in the time to come.
It seems though that we our lives don’t reflect this truth. We work and work to make sure that we are in good standing with God. We shake with fear when we fall short and expect some sort of retaliation from God as if we operate on some sort of karmic cycle. Our lives reflect fear not a perfect love that casts out all fear, not the love that was shown for us through the cross and resurrection.
This love that is expressed for us should be our motivation to follow Jesus but we still get hung up on the fear, the fear that entices us to follow the carrot. Fear comes from a lack of surrender. when we have not surrendered ourselves completely to Jesus we live our lives in fear, calculating all the things we need to do to receive the reward. We want the reward because we want to save our skin and avoid punishment. Surrender moves us from a fear of the future to a love of the present. Love of the present is the acknowledgment of the Kingdom of God that is growing right here and right now. When we embrace that we can be a part of the Kingdom here and now we leave behind fear and working toward a reward and step into the active relationship that Jesus has opened for us.
This relationship opens us up to a new way of life. The Eternal Carrot drives us to do good works so that we will save our butts from punishment but the new way of life operates in a way that does not focus on a future consequence or reward but on a present way of life.
“For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” Ephesians 2:10
We must surrender all that we are to Jesus, give up the fear and enter into a new way of life. A way of life that manifests itself in good works. Fear tells us that we have to do good works to be good enough to get the reward of heaven but fear tells us lies. Good works do not lead to the Kingdom. Surrendering to Jesus leads to residence in the Kingdom and residence in the Kingdom leads to good works. Fear has no place in the Kingdom!