“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18a (ESV)
Instead of calming our fears, the verse seems to create them; rather than breathing a sigh of relief after reading this verse, we wonder if it’s really true.
What I mean is how can fear be cast out when it’s part of the human experience?
On the psychological level there’s a myriad of phobias that people battle everyday, from spiders, to flying, to darkness. On a circumstantial level there’s fear caused by politics, the economy, disease, our kids, the future, the unknown. Fear is with us on many, many levels.
Rather than being an evicted tenant, fear seems like it’s here to stay.
At this point, some may be saying:
• You gotta meet fear with faith!
• Where’s your faith, bro?
• The opposite of fear is faith!
Okaaaaaay, thank you for the Christian t-shirt-slogan pep talk, but let’s notice something: John never says it’s my robust, muscular faith that casts out fear. He says perfect love casts out fear. And if we look at the two verses prior, we will see that it’s not even about our perfect love.
Verse 17 says, “By this is love perfected with us…”, and verse 16 tells us what “this” is: “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
In other words, God abides in you, and since God is love, his love abides in you perfectly (completely). You have 100% of God’s love fully and completely. He didn’t put down 50% of his love and then promise to make payments over time depending on how well you do. Nope, you got it all, right now, and you can’t lose it.
The implications of this are huge! John says, since this love is perfected in you, “we may have confidence for the day of judgment…for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (vv.17, 18)
Here’s the thing, the only people who have confidence standing before a judge are innocent people. Guilty people have no confidence; they are fearful, because the evidence is stacked against them.
Saying that God’s love is perfected in you isn’t simply a warm-n-fuzzy sentiment. God’s love was demonstrated on a bloody cross where God the Son took on himself all our guilt and punishment. That’s the perfect love of God that abides in you perfectly.
Because all guilt and punishment was placed on Jesus Christ, we can stand before God on judgement day with confidence, not fear. Perfect love casts out fear.
And since the greatest threat of God’s judgment has been removed, we don’t need to muscle our way through our smaller,earthly fears, wondering if our faith is big enough or strong enough.
Rather, we rest in God’s perfect love. Punishment has been removed, so fear is gone.
And because we have this confidence…
- We can boldly approach God’s throne of grace with all our earthly fears and anxieties, and we will receive mercy and grace to find help in our times of need.
- We can cast all our earthly fears and worries on God because he cares for you.
- We can go to God in prayer in spite of our anxious hearts and there we find Christ once again offering his daily peace and protection.
- Even when our faith is small and the worries of this world seem overwhelming, God graciously and patiently offers himself by giving us his righteousness, by putting us in his kingdom, and by caring for us as our Good King.
- We can even seek professional attention for debilitating phobias because advancements in medicine and science are ways God cares for us. And in the brokenness of our minds and bodies, we are lovingly directed deeper into the gracious abiding love of the Father that guarantees that all things broken will be made new.
Perfect love produces confidence, not fear. And when your confidence is in the perfect, ever-abiding love of God that is yours now and forever, you rest because conquering fear is not on you; instead it was done for you.
This is Good News.