17-18God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we're free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ's. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
(I John 4:17-18)
Yesterday, we began to look at this passage related to the fears we face in life - those things that we internalize and focus on that paralyze us and keep us from growing as we should in Christ. Today, I would like to expand upon this passage to look at the differences between love and fear. We already found that perfect love casts out all fear - remembering that perfect love describes God's character exactly. When we allow Christ to come into our lives, God's perfect love becomes the guiding influence.
There are several things we should understand about the very real emotion of fear.
- First, fear keeps us looking at the consequences of all action - in other words, we cannot step out because we become so consumed in the possibility that the consequences will be "bad" or "less than good".
- Second, fear often paralyzes us because we are afraid of punishment. There are times in our relationships on this earth when we may have stepped out in faith to do what we thought the other person wanted us to do, failed in that experience, and then experienced some type of punishment as a result. The relationship was broken, or at least there was some type of negative outcome. That makes us a little "gun-shy" when it comes to stepping out again.
- Third, one that is consumed with fear has their eye on tomorrow - what will come in the future. If that is our focus, we miss out on today's opportunities.
- Fourth, fear can put us in a place where we hold back or pull back when the pressures mount.
- Fifth, fear can be a tool we use to get our own way in life - we want to have a certain outcome, so we use fear as a tool to craft that outcome. We use it to gain the sympathies of another, or even to simply get the attention of others.
There are also some things we need to understand about the emotion of love (and the person of love - Jesus).
- First, the most important thing we need to grasp about love is that it is an opportunity seeker. Love looks outside of self and sees the opportunities that exist all around us.
- Second, one who moves in love is "today-focused" - there is nothing more satisfying or rewarding that exhibiting love and seeing someone blessed today.
- Third, one who is focused on the love of God within them is able to move beyond the selfishness of needing the world to gravitate around them all the time. The focus moves to others rather than self. There is a move from being self-seeking to being able to give of oneself to others.
- Fourth, the more that a person allows the love of God to develop within, the more fear will be displaced. Fear and love cannot abide together. Our love grows in frequent fellowship with the Lord.
David shared an experience in Psalm 118 when he felt like he was being "pushed to the wall". Here's what he said: Pushed to the wall, I called to God; from the wide open spaces, he answered. God's now at my side and I'm not afraid; who would dare lay a hand on me? (vs. 5-6) Lots of experiences in life have the capacity of making us feel "pushed to the wall", but only one thing can make us feel this secure - the love of God. Remembering that the love of God is really a person (Jesus), the more of Jesus we come to enjoy in our lives, the more love takes up residence.
We make the choice to exist in love or fear. It is a daily, moment-by-moment choice. We embrace God in the circumstance, or allow the fear to envelop us and push us to the wall. Perfect love casts out ALL fear - no fear is justified, no fear is too great. The enemy to perfect love is fear. The antidote to fear is perfect love.