In my first blog posting in this series, I introduced you to three of our notable enemies: “Failure, Freaked, and Frozen!” It was my humorous attempt to personify some of our more common fears. We’re taking a look at First John 4:18, and considering all of the myriad ways in which we tend to shy away from God’s grace – both theologically and experientially. By way of reminder, here’s God’s promise: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. And we’ve already established this important truth: faith is not the antidote to fear, but love is.
So what is “perfected” love? We get some clues from the text, and from the context. Consider Verses 16 and 17, for example: … God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us … The key to perfected love is abiding in God. To abide in God is to abide in love.
Now peek back at Verse 12, and you will discover something vitally important: … if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. If we put all of this together, I think here’s what we can conclude: “perfected” love happens when God’s love – in and through us – comes into action. Let me say it like this: PERFECTED LOVE IS GOD’S LOVE EXPRESSING ITSELF IN OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.
This is super important, I believe, or we will jump to a wrong conclusion. When most of us hear the word “perfected,” we think of something being changed from imperfect to flawless. But the Greek word that John uses here does not normally mean that. Instead, it generally means “accomplished,” “completed,” or “finished.” If your goal is to make it to Nashville before the concert starts, and you’re in fact there for the opener, your trip – in this linguistic sense – has been “perfected.”
So, when I love my neighbor who is hungry, I don’t just talk about giving him something to eat – I actually give him something to eat! This side of heaven, I won’t execute that perfectly (in either action or intent), but my gift can be nonetheless an expression of “perfect” love because it’s God’s love put into action. In fact, John goes on to explain its eternal significance from our perspective (back to Verse 17): … that we may have confidence for the day of judgment. You and I gain much-needed spiritual confidence, especially in a season of uncertainty and doubt, when we see God at work in our lives!
Now let’s get back to this dude I named Freaked. I see him everywhere I look. This coronavirus crisis is not the first of its kind, and there have been a couple of dozen similar pandemics throughout history. But this one has rattled us. We didn’t live through the Antonine Plague or the Black Death or the Spanish Flu. It’s my contention that the 2020 lockdown, combined with a general distrust of the “experts” at a level I’ve never seen before, has created a gnawing and relentless fear of the unknown lying just below the surface of our lives.
In a moment, and it happens without warning, you and I become Freaked. What shall we do?
We will choose to grow up.
You know how it is with tiny babies. If the stuffed toy is out of plain sight, it doesn’t exist. At a certain point in time, however – when you hide the toy – the child keeps looking for it. They’ve reached an important stage in their maturity. Here’s what you and I can do right now: we can remember and recall the love of God! Yes, times are uncertain. Yes, solutions are unclear. Yes, circumstances are troublesome and turbulent. But … YES, the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever!
We will choose to love up.
John makes it clear that we haven’t “seen” God (Verse 12). We get it. But you and I can promote the reassuring knowledge of God – even in this moment of COVID-19 craziness – by intentionally loving each other. Deeply and sacrificially. Here is the bottom line regarding much of what we’re learning in this series: the more love that we give to others, the more fear will disappear! And think about all the things that leave the room when fear gets kicked out – things like unhealthy competition, jealousy, resentment, and gossip. Love is the way out of those dark and destructive behaviors.
We will choose to live up.
You and I are the Lord’s redeemed! We are His people and the sheep of His pasture! We are loved with an everlasting love! In Christ, you and I couldn’t be in a safer place if we tried. Paul Washer says it like this, “I have given Christ countless reasons not to love me. None of them changed His mind.”
Choosing UP with you!