18 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. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 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. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:18-21
The first verse of this section, verse 18, is one that is quoted many times in the Christian faith: Perfect love casts out fear. As much as we love to quote it, I think that we still struggle to believe it.
It is a hard concept to understand, especially because here on earth we live in a world that is designed for us to reap what we sow. We think that if we are kind, we receive love. If we are not kind, or fail, or mess up in any way, we receive punishment. And while in some ways this may be true on earth, it’s hard for us to understand that this is not true when it comes to our heavenly Father.
He is perfect, Ultimate Love, so we do not need to fear punishment. We will mess up, we will sin, but as believers, when that happens, we don’t receive punishment from God- we receive perfect love in return, that which we do not deserve.
Perfect Love creates a safe space. It’s as if there was a twenty-foot circle around Jesus- when we stand inside, we experience this love in an amazing way, in the form of freedom to be ourselves. The twenty-foot radius includes room to run and dance and sing, or play and laugh, or cry and stomp or make mistakes. The radius has room for us to be who we are, without shame. As long as we are near to him, there is no shame in failure. There is no punishment, no matter what we have done.
Love creates a space where fear cannot survive, because fear needs shame to continue to grow and mock us. Where there is no space for shame, there is no space for fear.
I think it’s beautiful that God/John talks about there being no fear in love right before he mentions our brother again. I think that as a believing family, we are supposed to help each other find this twenty-foot radius, this shameless space. Maybe we can even help create that space here on earth, bringing the Kingdom down.
It will look different here on earth, and I’m not saying that as believers, we should rid the consequences of our actions. I’m saying that there should be no fear that we won’t be forgiven for our actions. As family, we can make a place around each other where there is freedom to try and fail, because we have that love of God in us, too.
I pray that God would show us in a deeper way how much he loves us. Would it penetrate our hearts in a way that it hasn’t done before. I pray that we would desire to remain close to him, to live in his circle of perfect love, where fear and shame are not allowed.