1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
The more you read 1 John 4, the more you realize you don’t really understand agape love. God had a reason for choosing Greek for the dissemination of the Gospel! We have fears of various sorts and we struggle with loving those around us, which proves that this verse is true. The thing is, we need to have the humility to admit that we haven’t been made perfect in love, and yield ourselves to God for His love to flow through us, replacing our own, highly imperfect love. The rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, has a number of problems theologically, but one song from it has a kernel of deep truth in it: I Don’t Know How to Love Him. If we are honest, we all have to make that confession. Our concepts of love are so distorted by so many things, both within us and from outside us, that without the help of the Holy Spirit, we have little hope of getting it all straight. For example, there are those who think they are motivated by love in forcing girls to go through FGM, and there are others who think that love means spoiling children rotten. Either of those is a sad distortion. What complicates it all is that our distorted view of love colors how we see God, since He is Love, as John says in this very chapter. It should be totally obvious that God isn’t self-centered and/or erotic love! All of us have tasted agape love, both receiving it and, at least in flashes, letting it flow through us. The point is to learn more and more about it, to recognize it and not be deceived by the countless imitations. That’s why John wrote this passage. Fear is within us, so it is a reliable gauge of our level of love. There is a lot in the world to make us afraid, so this is constantly being tested. When we have a perfect appreciation of God’s love for us, fear becomes a non-issue, and we allow God’s love to flow through us, even to those who are perhaps killing us. That is a high standard indeed!
I feel like I have a better grasp of agape than many, but when I look at it this way, I see that I’m not yet “made perfect.” However, I can say that yielding to God’s love does make fear fly out the window. John’s remark about punishment rings true when I realize how many of my fears are related to my own failures. It’s not at all that I’m to be cavalier about sin of any sort, but God’s grace is indeed greater than all my sins, just as the hymn says, and His love covers over them all. (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8) I’ve also got to realize that applies to the sins of everyone else as well. I am to pray for those who sin against me, just as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:44) and allow His love to erase the impact of their sin in my life. That’s not easy! The longer I serve as a spiritual father to many, the better I understand how we all break our heavenly Father’s heart in many ways. I need to let His love flow through me more and more, to wash out all the junk and make me into the loving child that He desires.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I do ask for Your wisdom and guidance in expressing Your love to those around me, especially to Your wandering sheep. Help me correct and admonish as necessary, but always keep Your love primary and in the forefront. I can’t do that on my own! May I be increasingly effective as a vessel, an agent of Your love, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!