“…perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18b, NASB)
I want to focus on the two specific components in this statement: “casts out fear” and “perfect love.” First, some thoughts about “perfect love.”
The New American Standard quotes I John 4:15-17 as, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us…” (italics added) What is “this” referring to? “…the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” The cornerstone upon which this is built: that God is love. Our abiding with one another – He and I – “perfects” or matures us to receive, live in, and dispense even more of Him….even more of love. God has given us a portion of Himself through His Spirit to carry out the desires of His Heart and the reign of His plans.
Consider for a moment, the image of a PBJ sandwich: separate elements are involved, but they make a composite creation. The “peanut butter” of my abiding, connects with the “jelly” of
His abiding. They moosh together. It is both a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, as it is equally a jelly-and-peanut-butter-
Have you ever tried to pull apart a well-mooshed PBJ sandwich? You will quickly discover that the creation has very much “become one.”
I learned something about the word “abide,” this week. In fact, I think I have actually misunderstood its definition for years. My mental interpretation of Jesus teaching “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:4, NASB) has been in my mind to mean, “Keep following My Words and doing what I say, and I will keep giving you words to follow and things to do and so we will be walking and working together.” Now that isn’t a really awful interpretation…but it lacks the together-ness of mooshed peanut butter and jelly. It reflects a mindset of beingseparate andtransactional towards God…not walking in relationship with Him, the two of us comprising a unified (and new) creation.
Merriam-webster.com defines “abide” as a verb. It is an active state which would include “to wait for”; “to endure without yielding”; “to bear patiently”; “to accept without objection”; or, as an intransitive verb, “to remain stable or fixed in a state”; or “to continue in a place.”
At the time Jesus made His “Abide in Me” statement, He had been saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NASB) The accurate nuances of “abiding” fit in perfectly with a vine and its branches producing fruit as it procures vigor and nutrients from the well-rooted vine: wait for Me; endure without yielding; bear patiently during the process; accept My vine-ship to your branch-ship, without objection; remain stable, continue.
And one of those definitions brings me to the second part of I John 4:18b, the phrase “casts out fear”. The definition that is relevant to the phrase is endure without yielding.
And what might any of us yield to? What is a common infiltrator of such influence that it can successfully stagnate or negate the awareness and manifestation of such powerful Love deposited into, or flowing out of, our lives?
Earlier this week, a friend shared with me that a Bible study she recently attended had material presented that stated Divine Judgment would soon devastate the United States both physically and economically. And why was this event going to occur? Because the regular punishing of people through devastations of Judgment was part of God’s Nature. The opinion of each person in the room, she explained, was that that God’s nature of wrath towards them might be displayed at any time; some were afraid God might bring them personal calamity for “falling short” in being “a good Christian”; some were afraid of God’s Judgment on America for a nationwide “refusal to repent” regarding specific policies or activities; some interpreted international or political events as evidence of “where we are” on a Revelation- interpretation that we are nearing a time of great tribulation that leads to the end of the world.
The one common thread throughout the discussion? Fear. Yielding to fear. But not fear of demonic forces or “schemes of the devil” that we are to resist (Ephesians 6:11) …rather, feeling a perceived fear of the Father, Himself, Who “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, what whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB)
Let’s go back to the peanut butter and jelly. Back to “perfect love casts out fear.” Back to, “There is no room for fear in love,” and that fear reveals “one not fully formed in love.”
Who loves perfectly? Well, that would be God. Whose Spirit has been given to those who have been called with “a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity”? (2 Tim. 1:9, NASB) Again, that would be God. About Whom did Paul write, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from…” Whose Love? That would be God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39, NASB)
I would say….they don’t really know Him at all…and they do not understand the nature of the New Covenant.
Perfect love casts out fear. Hold on to that until next week.