This summer, I’m sharing devotions pulled from my study What is Love? based on 1 John 4.
To download a 14-day Bible study to accompany these devotions, click here.
Love or fear. Sometimes we pit these two against each other, offering them as opposite ends on a scale. Even if our instinct toward one is strong, the other can take charge. For example, if I see a car racing down the road, fear of injury keeps me on the sidewalk. However, if one of my children runs into the street, my love would overcome the fear as I chase to protect them.
But is there more in these verses?
No Fear in Love
This is all you have. This is not a dry run. This is your life. If you want to fritter it away with your fears, then you will fritter it away, but you won’t get it back later. ~Laura Schlessinger, American radio host and author
The beginning of 1 John 4:18 says, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
Here, John declares that fear and shame and other fear-based emotions have nothing to do with love, but let’s qualify that. John is not talking about wisdom-based fear. Wisdom-based fear is healthy. It’s respecting a hot stove and avoiding places criminals hang out.
Remember what we want in our relationship with God? To grow in knowledge, faith, and trust. But the fear John mentions drives a wedge between you and God. It seeks to limit possibilities that would cause you to grow as God intends.
Where fear rules, John makes a radical statement: The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Love, not fear.
For years, I didn’t consider whether I put more effort into love or fear. Fear controlled me well into my late 30s when God finally made me deal with some things.
- I was afraid that I had nothing of value to add to conversations, so I sat quietly, listening to others.
- And I couldn’t ask questions because people might think badly of me.
- When people asked me, I was afraid to make a choice of where to eat dinner because maybe no one else would like that place.
- I was afraid of being out of control, so much so that no one knew when I needed a friend.
Many more fears plagued me, but can you see how it dominated parts of my life? It was ridiculous. Or perhaps, more honestly, I was ridiculous.
Clearly, fear was in control of me.
One morning, I sat in a Sunday School class I’d attended for months. Several neat rows of four or five chairs faced the podium at the front. I knew the Pastor, our teacher, a down-to-earth, Oklahoma-bred-farmer-turned-preacher. As I sat near the back, a close friend and her husband chose chairs one row in front of me. The classroom held maybe 10 people total—everyone single one I could name, and I had visited most of them in their homes.
In the middle of class, I dropped my pen.
And I sat there, arguing in my head about whether it was more embarrassing if I just let that pen sit there until the end of class, or if I should grab it and hope I bothered no one.
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. ~Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist
If you identify with my fearful self, know that you do not have to live there. God has a better plan for you than fear, and He wants to help you grow past it into an abundant life. Thankfully, the kinds of fear that were present in my heart and thoughts are not what John was talking about in 1 John 4.
But we’ll look at that next week.
Enjoying this series? You can purchase the study that includes discussion questions to make this all very personal and help you grow in love. It’s downloadable, so print only the pages you want. And it’s only $2!
What is love? We can give examples of love and talk about being in love, but what exactly is it? Do we have a defining moment, an ideal expression to live up to or look for? The apostle John goes deep into love in 1 John chapter 4, telling us exactly what love is.
This 14-day study includes questions to help you define what you think love is and what God may want you to do or change. Download is printable and formatted for half sheets of standard paper (5.5″ x 8.5″).