John tells us “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It isn’t just that God does loving things; He actually is love. Love is what defines Him. John also tells us that God’s love is perfect (v17-18).
That should be a very comforting thing, but we tend to have a problem believing it. John hints at our problem in verse 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 been perfected in love.”
Do you fear the judgment? A lot of us do, and we’re told here what the issue is – we haven’t yet appreciated the perfect quality of God’s love for us. Oh yes, there can be reason to fear. In Hebrews 10 we’re told “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (v26-27). We have that choice: we can turn our backs on God and keep on sinning willfully in defiance of Him. But none of us want that. We want to be in God’s Kingdom.
So, how do we get to the point where perfect love casts out fear? How do we become perfected in love?
The only way we can come to appreciate the power and perfection of love is to practice it with one another.One of our difficulties is our inability to see God. John acknowledges this in verse 20. It’s hard to love someone, or appreciate the love of someone, who you can’t see. But in that acknowledgement John provides the solution to our problem – “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (v20). The only way we can come to appreciate the power and perfection of love is to practice it with one another. With those we can see. And it’s then that we see the fruit of love, the outcome of loving our brothers and sisters.
When we judge and condemn one another instead of loving them we’re not going to learn about the love of God. Instead we’ll learn about fear and reap our negative reward at the Judgment. It’s only by loving one another that we see God. We see relationships mended, sins forgiven, loneliness defeated, sad hearts gladdened, and a host of other things that are all positive and all point to how God works in our lives.
Our struggle to acknowledge the perfection of God’s love for us is one of life’s biggest lessons.It’s when we wrestle between judging and loving, and don’t express perfect love towards one another, that we doubt the love of God. We look at our own imperfections and translate that to God, as if He struggles with love too and is quicker to judge us instead. But God’s love for us is perfect. It isn’t mixed with wondering whether He should condemn us instead. It doesn’t have ulterior motives. It is genuine, sincere and perfect.
Our struggle to acknowledge the perfection of God’s love for us is one of life’s biggest lessons. But it’s worth practicing loving one another to come to know who God truly is. And then we can come to the point of what John says in verses 16-17 – “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.“
Simi Hills, CA