Thursday

23 January 2020

1 John 4:16b-21

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (v. 18)

Psalm: Psalm 119:145-160

Background

The passage reminds us that our love for God is in response to God’s love to us (v. 19), must be demonstrated in our love for those around us (v. 21), and somewhat powerfully underlines this by calling us liars if we claim to love God but have hatred towards others (v. 20).

But it’s in the initial verses that we get a very clear understanding of love in that it has ‘no fear’ (v. 18). Most of us will know the anticipation, nervousness and anxiety that is involved in human love, when words and actions can seem to have the most crucial implications. Fear, however, cannot be present in love. Fear is a much darker emotion that causes a terrible impact, both immediate and long term, and can’t be an expression of love.

I particularly appreciate the understanding of perfect love driving out fear (v. 18). Fear is a natural human response to many situations, and is hard to overcome. ‘Fight or flight’ appears to be part of our DNA, and flight is very often the better way. Not everything about fear is negative.

Fears may be irrational, but are still there. When we are overwhelmed by God’s perfect love, there is an ongoing development of our relationship, and while there will be ups and owns like in all relationships, it is going in the direction of us fully experiencing and understanding God’s love. And the closer we get to this overwhelming experience, the greater hold God’s love has on us, and the looser the grip of fear has on us.

 

To Ponder:

  • Are ‘hatred’ and ‘liar’ very difficult words to read here? Do we want to soften the words of Scripture to fit in with a more contemporary expression and struggle with some of the language in the Bible?
  • Is there someone close to you that you just can’t love? How does our faith impact our lives in such situations?
  • Perfect love drives out fear (v. 18). Have you experienced that perfect love that has freed you from fear?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Skuce

Stephen Skuce is currently Director of Global Relationships for the Methodist Church. An Irish Methodist presbyter and former mission partner in Sri Lanka, he has served with British Methodism for the last 14 years in roles at Cliff College and as Methodism’s Director of Research.

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