Perfect Love

Perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (Excerpt from 1 John 4:18)

That little phrase has caused me no end of consternation.  What does it mean?  What is perfect love?  And does fear really have to do with punishment?  Fear of spiders, or guns, or sickness- those fears don’t have to do with punishment, do they?  So if I understand I am loved, isn’t a certain amount of fear still totally rational?

When I was young, I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around the concept hinted at in that passage.  I especially couldn’t wrap my mind around what seemed to be the dueling ideals of understanding perfect love and still being commanded to fear God.  I mean, if perfect love casts out all fear than isn’t the command to fear God also a command to NOT understand his love?  What were these Bible writers really going after?  Perhaps they owned stock in Tylenol.

But time teaches any number of lessons.  And I’ve learned in time that fearing God, that is, understanding his power and being in awe of it, is possible even with grasping his love for me.  It’s partially because I know he loves me that I am in awe of his power- because I understand that his love may take forms that I cannot fully comprehend or handle, just as there are times that even though I understand my husband’s love for me I deal with the reality that I cannot fully understand him or his motives and am sometimes baffled by his choices.  How much more so when it is God I am loving and being loved by- this eternal being whose mind is almost utterly foreign.

But yet I am CERTAIN of his love, and thus while I tremble I am not truly afraid.  I know that even in the pain and agony of this life, even in the troubles and hurt and abandonment and terror, I am loved.  I live and experience life because I am loved, even feel pain because I am loved, and I know that in time everything about my relationship with God that baffles me will be made clear, and I will continue to feel and understand his love.

Perfect love isn’t happiness, it isn’t kittens and roses- perfect love is confidence.  It is the ability to suffer through even the worst pain for the sake of something greater.  It is willingness to submit to a higher will.  Like with earthly parents, sometimes love takes the form of admonition and a slap on the wrist.  Sometimes it takes the form of letting out the leash and letting the loved one suffer their own consequences.  Sometimes it takes the form of offering a bitter drink for the sake of health.  But all of these things are love, and in the end just as with one’s earthly parents one grows to the point that one sees that love and pain are sometimes simultaneous.

And then you learn not to fear, you learn to trust, you learn to be willing to believe in that love even as the tears are falling.

And it is perfect.


6 thoughts on “Perfect Love

  1. 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

    Meaning the true nature of love (1 Cor 13,Gal 5:22-23, Rom 5:8)

    “Sometimes it takes the form of letting out the leash and letting the loved one suffer their own consequences.”

    Like we see here in Matthew 25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
    6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming;[a] go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
    11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’”

    All ten had the best of intentions. They just missjudged what seemed to be one minor thing. Surely the bridgroom could over look that. I mean they meant well and all.

  2. Lindsey, this is probably one of my favorite posts from you. Such a clear way to put it.

    The thing that I admire about you most, is that you bring back what the real is in Christianity. You make the teachings simple, and cut through the B.S. You make sense of things that make little sense. That is definately a gift from God himself.

    Thank you for your wisdom and teachings. Even though I don’t consider myself a “Christian” I am a follower of Jesus’s teachings and I think you are a fine example for us all to behold.

  3. Lindsey, I didn’t understand this concept for a long time. I think I finally grasped it when I had my kids. I love them unconditionally and yet I do things that they don’t like or causes discomfort. Things like scolding them, correcting their behavior, and punishment when nedded.

    I signed the consent form for surgery for my son knowing it would cause discomfort and pain but also save his life. I try to remember that I may not understand why things happen the way they do and I may not understand why God does the things he does; but I trust my best interest is in his heart.

    And just like my kids, I sometimes pout and mutter, “you can’t love me if you let that happen.” But I usually understand when enough time passes…eventually.

    Thanks again for a thought provoking post. Glad you are back.

  4. Food for thought on this passage. I have loved this verse most of my life. Maybe I have not fully analyzed it. Maybe it was my desire to know that love from God that was so different from the love of my parents and ex-husband that did have so much to do with “punishment.”

  5. wep601: Ah… God’s love is different, though. Because while your earthly parents are imperfect, your heavenly father IS perfect, and you’ve no reason to fear his love, no reason at all!

  6. M54: Thanks for the verses! That was an interesting thing to contemplate.

    Amber: Thank you! Sincerely, thank you so much.

    wvhillcountry: Thank you. Isn’t it amazing how much having kids changes the way one views the world?

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