And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first. – 1 John 4:13-19
My dad’s go-to verse was 1 John 4:18. In the King James it is rendered, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” It was important to him because for a period of time he struggled with panic attacks. He would become light-headed and anxious. The doctor told him to breathe into a paper bag – which he would do – bringing temporary relief.
Once I came to his furniture store to find him lying on a sofa breathing into his take-along paper bag. It was humiliating to him, I’m sure, and I didn’t know how to handle it well either. But when he discovered this verse and held to it tightly the relief came more permanently. In time the panic attacks went away: Perfect love casts out fear.
Perhaps you know those dark moments of the soul, those fearful moments of life. The sound in the middle of the night that stops your heart. The news from the doctor that makes your blood run cold. The call from the police with news that crushes your world and leaves you feeling completely vulnerable. The news on TV announcing financial ruin that evaporates your life’s savings. Fear comes to us in many ways. Sometimes there isn’t even a reason for it, but it haunts us.
Perfect love casts out such fear. That perfect love is God’s love. It is complete, perfect, full, lacking nothing. It doesn’t accuse, envy, boast, or rejoice in evil. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God’s love never fails (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).
God’s love comes to us and assures us of his good will and hopeful plans. God’s love also directs our hearts to others’ good and favor. When we embrace God’s love for us, and focus that love toward others there is no room for fear. We can live confident, hopeful, gracious, and kind lives when the perfect love of God takes root in our hearts by faith, and flows from us into the lives of others.
Our own love will never be perfect. But God’s love in Jesus is complete, perfect, and absolute. It is a treasure thankfully to be received and richly to be shared.