Fear and love — the two great motivators — are increasingly being snuffed out of existence in America, at least when it comes to regulating society. In their place we’re seeing people who sport a fearless disrespect for the law along with a brutish hatred for anyone who dares to think or act differently than them, both of which are rewarded by the media and politicians at the local and national levels.
Remove either fear or love from a society’s fabric and you’ll feel the pinch, but when a nation loses both, it will inevitably descend into an anarchistic set of thoughts and savagery of actions that completely rewrites life on a daily basis.
The loss of fear
My father was a colonel in the Air Force and ran bases in both the U.S. and abroad for decades. Many times, he told me how exhausted he was of all the crime in America and said that, while serving overseas, he witnessed firsthand how to greatly reduce the rate at which nearly all capital crimes are committed.
While in the Middle East, he and other military personnel dealt with a lot of the ethnic violence that we still see today. But, he said that murder, rape, and similar offenses in major cities were surprisingly very rare. When those perpetrating such crimes were caught, they were immediately ushered out of the city where they were executed and then the offender’s family was called to collect the body.
Sounds barbaric and merciless doesn’t it? Perhaps, but it kept alive what is currently lacking in our justice system — the overwhelming reluctance to commit crime due to the fear of being caught.
Fear is the typical motivator for protecting a society, with laws being enacted to safeguard people from one another. Break the law, and you incur consequences, which should be unpleasant if not downright scary.
Except that today it’s not.
Nowadays, justice is anything but frightening or swift, and instead reflects what Solomon speaks about in Ecc. 8:11: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.”
Extreme neglect and leniency have become the norm in many courthouses, with the end result being repeat offenders who live out what the prophet Isaiah said: “Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness; he deals unjustly in the land of uprightness” (Is. 26:10).
A great example in Scripture is Pharaoh who, in his battle with Moses, exhibited this exact behavior: “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said” (Ex. 8:15).
With the recent “defund the police” movement, we’ve now reached the point in our culture where lawless people are demanding the removal of the ones who most personally represent the fear of law and order.
If, “by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil” (Prov. 16:6) and Scripture states that governmental officials, including the police, represent God when it comes to maintaining law and order (Rom. 13:1-7), then is it any wonder that evil runs unchecked in a society that has openly rebelled against God and His human authority?
Should we be surprised it’s come to this?
The loss of love
Although the Bible contains many prescriptive laws, it also tells us that laws are ultimately ineffective at curtailing the lawless acts of our fallen human nature.
When it comes to bringing about true righteous behavior, Scripture calls law “weak and useless” (Heb. 7:18), that it makes “nothing perfect” (Heb. 7:19), tells us that if “a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law” (Gal. 3:21), and that “law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming” (Heb. 10:1).
While fear acts as a rudimentary deterrent to bad behavior, a better way to stop lawbreaking is to change the heart of the lawbreaker.
Paul hits on this very point when he says: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:3-6, my emphasis).
Life and peace. Aren’t those goals of every just society?
But to achieve that, you need people who are born again and given the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). That allows them to then love God and their neighbor as themselves, which is the sum total of all law (Matt. 22:34-40).
Get a society to that point, and you can scrub all laws from the books because they won’t be needed. But sadly, America is headed in the wrong direction where a society ruled by love is concerned.
Fear and love working together
The best of all scenarios is where you have a mature type of fear that works in conjunction with love to rule in the hearts of people.
As an example, my wife oftentimes works very hard at preparing a special new meal for the both of us. When I tell her how delicious it is, she will sometimes say, “Good, I was afraid you wouldn’t like it.”
Now is she afraid because she’s scared of me and fearful that I’ll berate or abuse her? Hardly. No, instead, because she loves me and wants to make me happy, she’s worried that I won’t be pleased.
This type of fear, which is an outworking of love, labors to achieve the highest form of loving others as yourself.
It’s also the same with God. As Christians, we mature so that we don’t continue in a childlike fear of a divine hammer coming down on us for doing wrong, but rather we possess a fully-grown-up fear of wanting to please God and being afraid of falling short because we love Him.
The bottom of the barrel
There’s an eye-opening verse in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse that’s recorded in Matthew’s gospel. In describing what the End Times will be like before His return, one of the conditions Jesus highlights is this: “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (vs. 24:12).
Sounds just like what’s happening today, doesn’t it?
When law and order become the enemy, and society loses its fear of God and rebels against His appointed officials who enforce that law, it’s inevitable that evil actions multiply and become commonplace. That, then, leads to a loss of what little love people have for one another and before you know it, you’re at the bottom of the barrel in a society.
Absent a long-overdue return to God coupled with the appointment of government leaders who are willing to stand up to lawless crowds who openly rebel against the framework that keeps society functioning in an orderly and just way, America is destined to suffer the full abandonment wrath of God (Rom. 1:18-28).
Practically, this means we may all soon learn what it is like to live in a land where our inalienable rights, freedoms, and protections given to us by God mean squat to the godless people who are in charge and thus are lost.
But then again, maybe we’re already there?
Robin Schumacher is a former software executive and Christian apologist who has written many apologetic articles, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at various apologetic events. He holds a Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament.