1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
The Perfect Love of God
It didn’t take us humans long to mess up perfect love. Adam and Eve very quickly found themselves overcome by fear and shame once they gained knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:6-10). Thus ushering in for the rest of us imperfect love and imperfect relationships. Relationships that would be full of manipulation, insecurity and fear. Love became unreliable; even untrustworthy. For us to truly love others we have to first be rooted in God’s first love. It is the only love that can be relied and built upon.
The reason why we can and should only rely on the perfect love of God is because the love we exchange here on earth can only exist in imperfection. I cannot expect my wife to love me perfectly, she’s an imperfect being. We have to learn to accept and receive imperfect love here on earth or else we will never be able to enjoy others or be in relationships with them.
Additionally, entrusting ourselves to the Perfect love of God gives us power and security, unlike that of human relationships here and now. If you ever feel or think you have received perfect love from a human relationship, you are delusional. This doesn’t diminish our humanly desire to give and exchange a healthy, perfect love. What it does do is help us set our expectations in reality as well as reminds us to continually go back to God for his perfect love.
God’s command for us is to make sure that the love we share with each other (especially between followers of Jesus) is to be above all sincere (Rom 12:9). Notice, it’s not a call to love with perfect motives, but rather a call to love sincerely. To love sincerely means that we love to the best of our imperfect abilities and love without unhealthy expectations and fears.
Likewise, when we understand the perfect love of God we learn to express that love through faith (Gal 5:6). Faith has to be the motivating or driving factor behind our love. Love that is not first filter through God’s redemptive purposes is self serving or self gratifying. We love in response to God’s first love (1 John 4:20), which ultimately is a better more perfect love to give and receive.
There is no fear in love. Insecurity plagues all of our lives and to varying degrees at different seasons of life. 1 John 4:10-12 helps form our understanding of this perfect love. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (NIV) Since God lives in us we at least have a fighter’s chance at loving like Him. Apart from knowing and embracing the love of God through Jesus there is no way we can love without fear.
perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love has the power to expel or to remove fear completely. This is exactly what our humanly love needs to survive and flourish.
For fear has to do with punishment. Punishment (KOLASIS) – in the Greek it is also translated to torment as a process and not merely an event. It also denotes the consequence of sin, which acts as an enslaving fear that negates all enjoyment of love. This is abuse! It is also why some of our relationships, even though not abusive, felt as if they were… they were devoid of perfect love; they were full of imperfect love.
whoever fears has not been perfected in love. The implication of this phrase is that if your love relationships involve fear then you may not have received or understood the perfect love of God yet. Without a doubt, for you to become the loving person God longs for you to be, you must first receive and learn to enjoy God’s love through Jesus.
As an exercise, take a moment to reflect on your most intimate relationships. Ask yourself, “Does this relationship involve or exhibit fear, shame or punishment in any way?” If so, take the time to reconnect with the perfect love of God and ask God to remove fear so you can experience and enjoy a healthier relationship. Then with God’s strength, go to that person and express your feelings of fear – not with an accusing heart or attitude but with a heart toward developing greater intimacy with that person. If that person loves you (even though imperfectly), there should be a desire to embrace you and restore relationship.
So, what about you? Does the love you experience (give and receive) include fear? If so, you are settling for less than perfect love and less then God’s best for your relationships. I would love to hear what you think!