How does perfect love cast out fear?

Worldly or eternal fear? We have fears in our lives everyday. Help me understand, please.

1 John 4:18

JUB - 18 In charity there is no fear; but charity that is perfect casts out fear; because fear has torment; from which he that fears is not complete in charity.

Clarify Share Report Asked June 29 2015 Mini Anonymous

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Open uri20130622 23898 8dsex Kelli Hamann Supporter Pastor's Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Teacher, Writer, Cellist
I can see how this verse, 1 John 4:18, might be confusing. You're right: We face fears every day, and often these fears are simply a result of our God-given instincts to protect ourselves and others. For example, when your own child is sick, it's natural to be concerned, and your concern drives you to do absolutely everything you can to help your child become well again.

But 1 John 4:18 is actually addressing a different kind of fear, namely, the fear of judgment. We can deduce this by looking at the context in which we find this verse:

1 John 4:18-19: "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not a been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us."

These verses should comfort believers who sometimes doubt their standing with God. For those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, these verses assure us that if we're abiding in Him, we have no reason to fear judgment. He sees us as forgiven and washed from our sins, and nothing can separate us from His love:

Romans 8:38-39: "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Now, it's important to note that this whole chapter deals with "testing the spirits." In other words, John is addressing the fact that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian just because s/he says so. We are also given some "indicators" here that can help us to discern a true believer from a false believer, and can also test our own hearts. The next two verses in this passage say this:

1 John 4:20-21: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

The mark of a true Christian is to love as God loves, and hatred should not at all be found in the heart of a believer. 

While this chapter is about testing the spirits, I would caution against using it as a license to run rampant with judging others and their standing with God. Remember that at the end of this passage, we are commanded to love others, even if we can see that their walk with God is less than perfect. 

More than anything, I believe we should use this chapter to examine our own hearts to see if we harbor irrational fears or a lack of love toward others. These verses should point us to the importance of a genuine love relationship with God that 1) fosters deep trust in God, and 2) fosters deep love in us for God and others.

July 26 2015 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Robin Snelgar Professor and Head of Department of Industrial Psychology
We read here that love and fear are opposites (v18). If you love God then you will not be afraid of Him – if you see that God loves you then you will not be afraid of Him. In fact, this is true of anybody because when you truly love another person then you are not afraid of that person. It is also true that you do not fear those whom you truly love. When you truly love someone then you trust that person perfectly.

So then, we can ask the question: whose love casts out whose fear? The answer is that you can take it any way – your love stops that person being afraid, the love of that person stops you being afraid, and similarly, you are not afraid of God because He loves you. Love deals completely with all kinds of fear, and so if you have difficulty with fear of God’s punishment then you have not seen how much God loves you. Therefore, you will not love Him back because you cannot love God unless you know and fully accept that He loves you. If you doubt that God loves you then you cannot respond by loving Him. If you do not trust God’s love then you are unable to respond, and so you will be afraid.

If you feel that you cannot have fellowship with God because of what you have done or who you are, then you need to go back to the cross and see what He has done just for you. If you can see how much God loves you then you will love Him in turn. 

In Luke 7:36ff when Jesus was in a Pharisee's house and a woman who had been a prostitute, but had discovered salvation through Jesus, hears that He is there. She walks in and weeping and begins to wet His feet with her tears, kisses His feet and anoints them with oil. The Pharisees are annoyed and say that if this man is a prophet then He would know what kind of woman she is. Jesus then tells a parable of two people who owed a debt, one owing five hundred denarii and the other fifty denarii which they could not repay, and so the lender cancelled the debt. Jesus then asks the question: which would love him most? Simon answered that it would be the one with the greater debt. Jesus then compares the woman with Simon and says that he never gave Jesus any water to wash His feet, but she washed them with her tears, he never gave Jesus a kiss, but she kissed His feet, he did not anoint Jesus' head with oil, but she anointed His feet. Jesus then explains that her many sins are forgiven because she has loved much. He who has been forgiven little loves little. In other words, the more you 'see' how much you have been forgiven the more you will love Jesus. This does not mean that you should sin a great deal so that you will be forgiven more. Rather, the more you can see just how much Jesus has sacrificed for you, the more you will love Him. This woman knew just how much she had sinned and feels the burden of how much forgiveness she has received. The fact that she is totally forgiven results in her loving much because she knows how great her forgiveness is. 

Do you know the extent to which you have been forgiven, and so know how much God loves you, and as a result abide in God’s love for you? If you know that you have been completely rescued and love accordingly then John states that this means you are perfected in love. 

Have you been perfected in love? If you say 'no' then it is understandable. If you ask that question then we can only answer that we are progressing toward that goal – none of us have reached that goal completely because we will only reach that point when we reach heaven. However, are you reaching for that goal, on the way, trusting the Lord more and more for His love, trusting His graciousness, His tenderness, refusing to feel rejected, knowing that when any discouragement comes it is not from God? Only Satan discourages, and we are to trust completely that God never does. Satan oppresses, but God never oppresses, only gives you hope, and when you feel that you are losing hope then that is not from God but from satan. God only encourages because He loved us first.

December 28 2015 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Jackie sapio
With confidence, I know I love because our Lord first loved us as evidence of the Cross......human love is different than the love of God, depicted in First Corinthians 13. Perfect love casts out fear. I continue to strive to be evidence of God's perfect love. Therefore, God's grace and forgiveness is what allows me to continue striving and persevering The battle has all ready been won by God and as long as God is with me, who can be against me?

March 16 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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