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A little while ago we took the brave step to take the sides off our little girl’s cot and get her sleeping in a big girl’s bed. Predictably, she found the new found freedom far too much of a temptation, and did not hesitate to declare herself to be “not tired” and jump out of bed to see what was going on downstairs. Here began a battle which I was prepared to last a little while. ‘no two year old grasps this kind of stuff straight away’ I thought, so I had made sure there was a spare hour or so in my diary with nothing else on (and it wasn’t a champion’s league night) so I could calmly put her back to bed should she get up.

Two and a half hours later, I was at the end of my rope. I had placed her back into bed well over 90 times and had run out of ideas a long time ago. I had tried encouraging, explaining, persuading, cajoling, punishing, shouting, the calm & silent treatment and everything else I could think of. I had removed the chance for her to have any smarties the next day, I had promised a truck load of smarties if she did stay in bed, I had told her I was angry, upset, sad, and that she had let herself down…I was a broken man.

Finally I snapped. I turned all the lights on, whisked her out of her room, plonked her on my knee and shouted in a voice meant to install the fear of a mighty wrath into her.

Half way through me making my loud and angry point, she looked up at me with a huge smile on her face, placed her hand on my cheek and said “you have such a lovely nose Daddy”.

It was at that point that I realised something wonderful about my little girl and something even more wonderful about God.

Isabella is not scared of me. True, I wished in that moment that she was, but she isn’t. Not even a bit! She knows I might be mad, but she knows too that I will never ever be bad.

How many of us would benefit from that same knowledge applied to our heavenly father? He might be angry, or frustrated, or operate in mysterious ways…but he will never be bad. Ever.

Full stop.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
As we have reflected on John’s description of God this week, this truth set’s us free (as truth always does). God is not bad. He should never be the source of fear in us. Awe, yes. Respect, yes. Reverence, yes…but fear, no.

So for all those of us who have ever done something, or started to do something because we believed in some dark part of our being that God was angry with us, was out to get us and was going to punish us with a wrath and an iron fist, John would have us understand him differently. Don’t get him wrong, God remains holy and far above, but what makes him so primarily, is his love.