Love and Fear
16b God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 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 reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. 1 John 4:16b-21
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My dad always loved old Western movies. I watched a lot of them growing up, and I grew to love them too. One time when I was watching one, my son – just a toddler then – excitedly joined me and asked the one question anyone needs to know to make sense of such a movie: “Daddy, which ones are the good guys and which ones are the bad guys?”
That may work well in movies, but that’s not reality. Life’s heroes have flaws, and the villains usually aren’t completely bad. And so in this remarkable first century letter that we call First John, the author tells us that we’re supposed to love everyone, without exception. That doesn’t mean we should ignore evil or let it run wild in our world. Far from it. Often, loving our neighbor means we must actively oppose evil.
Perhaps the most jarring thing about this story though is that it identifies the opposite of love not as hate, but as fear. Fear becomes the seedbed of all the other things that drive out love. And so if we want to try to love more fully and completely, our task is not to identify the people we hate, but to honestly admit the people we fear. Fear is a powerful thing. But love is always more powerful. As John reassures us, “perfect love casts out fear.”
Jesus, help me admit to you and to myself the people I fear. Then drive that fear from me and replace it with love. Let your love transform my heart to love others, I pray in your holy name. Amen.
Rev. Scott E. Schul
The people of Grace share their favorite bible stories for the 2023 Lenten Devotional: I Love to Tell the Story. Each day's devotional will be automatically posted so come back daily after 7 am for a new reflection.