When people respond to the call of God to repent of their way of life what motivates them to do so? When I was young it was popular to preach about the fires of hell and the anger and punishment of God. There is no telling how many people went to the altar out of fear of falling into the hands of an angry God and a burning hell.
I’m not sure why teachers and preachers used the scare tactic as motivation. I’m not denying that there is a wrathful side of God directed to the non-believers and those who fail to submit to his rule. The bible does talk about the prospects of hell and its description is scary. To fall into the hands of an angry God is a terrible thing to contemplate. The question though, is fear a proper motivation for changing ones life and surrendering to his will?
I don’t think the biblical evidence would show that it is. True, the prophets contain many warnings of the things that the sins of the nations will bring upon them as punishment. Punishment is a direct consequence of sin. But punishment is not what God wants for his creation. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. God doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He came and took the punishment upon himself so that mankind could avoid it. His cry for repentance is not a scare tactic but one of love.
Listen to these words of Joel, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful,, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.” (2:13)
Repentance is offered on the basis of comfort and confidence. This is how God sees himself and thus it is how we should see him. He is the good shepherd who cares for his sheep, even for the one who has strayed. He is the mother hen who wants to gather her chicks under her wing to protect them. He is the father who gives good gifts. He wants us to come to him as a response to love and not fear.
Instead of warnings about hell, Christians should be telling about love. Jesus said it best, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.” He doesn’t mean by fear but by love. If you haven’t yet repented I urge you to do so today. Return to the Lord, he abounds in love.