Since the beginning of the project I keep finding myself drawn back to certain passages of scripture, actually, in a lot of cases whole books of the bible.
In the last couple weeks the words “No fear in love” have been playing on repeat in my head. They’ve popped up as I’ve faced difficulty in my relationships, they’ve been echoing through my mind as I’ve listened to students tell me about different situations going on in their lives. I’ve heard those words loud and clear as I’ve thought about what life is all about and how I should be treating the guy serving my coffee or the lady bagging my groceries.
1 John 4: 18 says,
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.
I’ve always thought about this verse from a first person perspective. I don’t have to be afraid when I am grounded in God’s love for me. And I believe that’s true and it’s a place to start, a jumping off point for this verse. It’s extremely important that we know ourselves through the eyes of the unconditional love God has for us. Brennan Manning says in The Raggamuffin Gospel, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” If we ignore internalizing how we are loved by God we inevitably will spend our entire lives trying to earn something that is already in our possession and miss God’s calling for us. Thank God for grace.
All of that said, in the last couple of weeks as the words “no fear in love” have been the background music for all of my thinking and living, I began to wonder what it would look like if I applied this verse, which I had only been applying to myself, to the way I love others. It opened up a whole world for me, which I have to admit wasn’t exactly comfortable at first.
Without intending to, I think, we practice a lot of fear in the way we “love” others. I mentioned that several days ago in this post. We have our Christian disclaimers because we’re afraid of what it will look like we condone, or believe, or have taken part of if we just love people as they are. We constantly want to spell it out for people, “I MUST REMIND YOU THAT YOU ARE A SINNER” and then we wrap ourselves in turmoil over how to relate– Do I go to the gay wedding? Do I give the homeless guy on the corner money? Do I baby-sit for the teen mom?
And most of the time we DON’T– whatever our specific question is– because we’re afraid that the most loving thing we could do will be enabling, or condoning, or supporting something that we are morally opposed to. And I get it. But I think collectively we DON’T get IT.
Over and over again the bible says, “Love God and love each other”. I don’t see anything that says to make sure we stand daily on our moral soap boxes or that it is our personal mission to convict the sinful pants off of each other. Instead of being “salt and light” we Christians seem to be in the constant business of isolating ourselves and alienating others. It’s wrong, it’s backwards and it makes zero sense if we pay any attention to Jesus.
Jesus made the first move every time. He reached out and touched the dirty, he approached the prostitute, he surrounded himself with the broken, the outcast, the rejected, and then he DIED for all of us. ALL OF US. Without any promise that we would even understand what that gift meant, without any down payment from us. He said, “You know what, they are mine, make me liable. I claim them.”
If there is no fear in love then there should be no fear in how we love others. Jesus set the bar really high, so I feel like it’s safe to say that we cannot err too far on the side of love, because love is the point. The whole entire point. What do we really think all of our “good” and “moral” insistence means if we are missing the point? St. Paul says it pretty clearly in 1 Corinthians 13,
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
If we love without fear we change the world. Because that’s what Jesus did and the more we do it, the more we become like him… “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. ” (1 John 4:16-17)
I know this is a lot.
Trust me, I’ve thought through the ramifications– it means self-sacrifice, and going out of our way, it means not caring what other people think, even other Christians, it means taking risks, taking personal hits, it means giving ourselves away… any of that sound familiar?
We can do this.
We have to do this, the world desperately needs it and so do we. I heard Rebekah Lyons say recently that anxiety is the result of unfulfilled purpose and I believe that’s true. It seems to me that the majority of the Christian community is experiencing a great deal of anxiety. Could it be because we are not fulfilling our purpose? I think so.
There is no fear in love.
Let’s begin loving fearlessly, church.