As I continue my lectio divina study of 1 John, in chapter 4 what strikes me is this:
“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.” 1 John 4:18
I have to admit that I am a fearful person. I’m always good at catastrophizing — thinking that the worst possible outcome to any situation is what I’ll have to face. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about sin — not just my own individual sins, but the sins of our society, and the sins of our ancestors. The older I get, the more I realize how bad we all are. Prejudice, genocide, slavery, war… all these things have happened in the past and are still going on. I’ve realized that at some point, we’ll all be judged by God, and it won’t be pleasant. We won’t be able to excuse ourselves by saying we didn’t know, didn’t personally participate, couldn’t help ourselves. This is a fearful thing.
However, a pastor friend told me to remember that although we will be judged, we won’t be condemned. Why? God’s perfect love has already provided the propitiation for every sin I can imagine. He sent His Son to take our punishment. This passage is not telling me that I must love perfectly (I can’t) but that when I understand God’s perfect love, I can stop being afraid. He has already covered all our sins, past, present and future. He has redeemed us.
That doesn’t mean we have a free pass, the right to ignore all sin and sin some more. In gratitude and repentance, we should say:
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love each other.” 1 John 4:11
Loving one another means speaking up when we see a wrong, trying to help, getting involved. “No one has ever seen God”1 John 4:12a — but they can see His love in us. Let people see God in your love. He loved you first.
For more about loving one another see these posts: