I had one of those experiences today when a verse reaches out to you and the impact is so large that it stops you and almost takes your breath. I was reading in 1 John 4, reading about love and I came upon a phrase often quoted “Perfect Love drives out fear”. It’s in verse 18 and what I didn’t realize, or hadn’t remembered is the rest of that sentence.
“Because fear has to do with punishment”
That’s what got me. God stopped me there and I stared. Because fear is something that I struggle with. It’s fear in its various forms and manifestations. Fear of failure, fear of death, fear of rejection. But what this verse connected in my head is that yes, all of these fears I experience have to do with punishment.
If I fail, will I still be of value? If I make a mistake, hurt someone, don’t perform as people think I should, will they cut me off or reject me? When I die, will heaven be what I hope, or is it all a trick.
All of these things are tied in with some sort of punishment or repercussion. If I don’t, then…If I do, then… Where’s the freedom in that? How do we not spend our lives tied up in knots, pussyfooting around the world and our situations?
Because there is no fear in Love. God’s perfect love, made manifest in Christ’s death for our forgiveness, negates our fear. If it’s fear, it’s not from God, not sourced in Him. So when I fear that maybe I won’t see the fulfillment of God’s promises or that somehow I’ve got it wrong, I’m not accepting the truth of God’s love for me. That I need to realize that if he is indeed the perfect and holy God, his love for me must be perfect as well. Not driven by human sins like manipulation, bait and switch, meanness, envy, jealousy, and the desire to climb on the backs of others. If God is perfect, there is none of that. He is not bound by our sinful natures.
And one step further, as we enter into our relationships with one another with the basis of God’s love, there should be a lessening of fear as well, shouldn’t there. Fear of rejection, judgement, not meeting someone’s standards. When we love one another as Christ intended and modelled, then the fear begins to dissipate. When we are loved and held accountable, but not punished, fear begins to lessen.
It is eye-opening for me. Realizing that it’s my lens of human relationship and imperfection that clouds my judgement of who God is and how he loves me. That this perfect love that he offers doesn’t break and bruise, but heals and uplifts. I knew this in my head, had thought the thoughts, but sometimes God needs to spell it out for me in black and white. A reminder of my preconceptions and the freedom that comes from the truth beyond them. So I’m releasing my fears to the cleansing of his perfect love.