Is God Punishing Me? (1)
1 John 4:17-19
By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
Very often, when listening to someone unpack the detail of the current rough patch he or she is traversing, a reflective question easily rises to the surface. “I just wonder if God is punishing me for something?”
Does God punish us? The word “punishment” speaks of satisfying a prescribed penalty for a legal offense (e.g., payment of a fine for a speeding ticket, spending a prescribed time in prison for extortion). Typically the penalty is painful. So, when something unpleasant occurs in our lives, and especially if the painfulness persists — and we believe in God’s overall influence in our personal situation — it is natural to think, “Oh, oh…I must have done something which violated God’s laws…and that is the reason for this difficulty that simply will not go away.” We begin to search for what the offense might have been. We feel somewhat “in the dark” about it.
May I suggest that God does not usually keep us in the dark about struggles which may persist? We need to think Biblically, to use the truth God has given us for perspective.
Our first biblical thought can be what we know about our justification by faith. We know that God does not “punish” His children for the penalty of their sin. That “death-penalty” was satisfied by the once-for-all death of the Lamb of God on the cross. The penalty attached to both our sinful condition in Adam and our sinful choices (Eph.2:1- 3) has been finished. We’ve been declared righteous by faith; we have peace with God (Romans 5:1).
So John explains why we can always have confidence before God about the coming day of judgment. God’s love for me, demonstrated in His Son’s death in my place, casts out my fear of punishment for sin.