Most of us are familiar with the verse in 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.” We’ve heard it at weddings, seen it on refrigerator magnets, on bookmarks, and maybe even memorized that verse as kids. I think it’s easy to miss the depth and profoundness of such a simple verse.
Recently, I’ve been pondering the connection between love and fear, and the unique relationship they have with each other. Do I believe that perfect love really casts out fear? If so, why does it feel like I’m still fearful so much? If perfect love casts out fear, then I think that fear casts out love (or at least clouds our ability to recognize and receive love). God has been telling us all along that we are His beloved. When I ask God what I need to know, so often the first thing I hear is that I’m deeply loved, and I am starting to see the opposition of fear and love. It’s just so easy to quickly forget that belovedness and go right back to fear.
I’ve been dwelling on a quote I read in Jonathan Martin’s book, Prototype, which touches on this concept:
“But that’s one way we can identify the devil’s voice: it always plays to our fears. It is the voice that tells us we must prove who we are, to prove that we’re worthy, to prove we are who God has already declared us to be. When we know we are loved by God, we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more beloved that we are.”
We live in a world that is saturated in fear and in a scarcity mentality. We are constantly bombarded with messages that we aren’t enough, that there isn’t enough, the world is unsafe, and if we are to survive, it’s up to us to make it happen. The great lie is that God isn’t sufficient to really take care of us, or he doesn’t really love us that much, and so we strive and work to try to earn his love and find our place in this world. And it’s all based in fear.
As we get older, our fears tend to be bigger and more prevalent, as we have more to hold onto and more to lose. We worry about our jobs, about money, our kids/grandkids, what we wear, where we live, having the next thing (or losing what we already have), what might happen if the other political party wins, etc… Fear is everywhere, even amongst those who follow Jesus, and it robs us from the freedom and beauty of being perfectly loved by God--right now, as we are, in our fears, in our mess, imperfect, anxious and reluctant to accept that love. That’s what we are freely given, yet have such a hard time accepting—unconditional love—the antidote and true path to freedom from fear. And in that place of freedom, Jesus invites us into a life of wonder and exploration in the unique identity in which He knit together in our mother’s womb and the quiet confidence that we really, truly are His beloved.