Perhaps that was being a bit dramatic about it, or perhaps that wasn’t stating it strongly enough. Perhaps at this point you’d like to throw this verse in my face:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
Am I saying that Saint John, an inspired writer, had it wrong? Am I telling you that Scripture is a dirty liar? Not exactly.
I read articles like this one that make it seem like love and relationships are all hearts and rainbows and puppies and butterflies all. the. time. People write as though you’ll find your perfect soulmate and everything will easily and naturally just fall into place. Can we have a reality check for just a moment please? Relationships are hard work. They aren’t all happy and warm-fuzzies all the time. Guess what else? There is fear in love.
The truth is that we all have things in our past that we aren’t proud of. There comes a time in our relationship where we have an opportunity for a whole new level of intimacy, the intimacy of confession. That feeling you get when you are about to spill your guts to that special someone, when you come face to face with the fact that they could walk away when they learn the truth? That’s called fear; fear that they could leave, fear that they could be appalled at the very sight of you, knowing what you’ve done. What about that moment when you tell someone you love them for the very first time and that silence seems to go on forever as you wait for their response? Isn’t there a fear there, too? A fear that your love may not be met with love, but lust, or attraction, or even disgust? How about when you are married? There is fear even there, fear they could leave, fear they could cheat, or die. The reality is that fear exists in love.
However…Saint John wasn’t just full of bologna. Love, when it is true, when it is a choice turned into a habit, that kind of love, the love that seeks to imitate His perfect love drives out the fear. Love that imitates Christ’s love for us, love that is willing to sacrifice for another, love that is willing to die to self, drives out all of our fears. When fear threatens us, we choose to love anyway. We choose to love even though the other person could betray us. We choose to love even though that someone we love will die one day, maybe before we do. We choose to love, to hope, that when we reveal those shameful moments from our past that the person will love us anyway. We choose love over fear…or we don’t. When we choose fear over love we become the person that Saint John is talking about, one who is not yet perfect in love.
We can choose love a thousand times a day, we can make it our habit, our deep desire to pursue it and become an embodiment of His love, or we can choose fear. Even though we may fall short from time to time, we can become perfect in love by choosing to let love drive out fear. It turns out that Saint John had it right all along: there is no fear in love because perfect love (love that imitates His love for us) drives it out – love may be (and is) a scary thing, but when we learn to love as He does the fear is dispelled and our love is only deepened.