Today’s Bible reading
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — I John 4:18
More thoughts for meditation
This week we’re trying to slow down, focus on one passage of Scripture, and let God root us once again in her love for us. Our passage for the week is I John 4:7-21. You’re invited to read the full passage each day this week, but we’re going to take it slow, focusing on just a few verses each day. Today our focus is just on verse 18. Recall that back in I John 4:7-8, we were reminded that God is love, and that when we love, we reveal that we know God and that we are born of God, that we are God’s children. Likewise, in verses 9 and 10, the focus was on how God shows us who she is- by sending Jesus so that we can live through him as we participate in God’s love. This is how God saves us from everything that is not love, from everything that is not God. Then, in verses 11-12, we saw how the loving community that exists amongst God’s self overflows onto creation, including humanity, and is fulfilled as we participate in that community by loving one another. In verses 13-16a we saw how we might get caught up in the love-life of the Trinity by receiving the gift of the Spirit and therefore pointing to the Father by proclaiming the good news about the Son. And finally in verses 16b-17 we were reminded that when we root ourselves in a life of love we root ourselves in Jesus, in God who is rooted in us, and so we are like him and can have confidence when God finally sets all things to right.
Our verse today invites us to double down on that confidence. “There is no fear in love,” we’re reminded, because “perfect love drives out fear.” God is love, and we who are rooted in that love-life live in God, and God in us. So love is the house we live in. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the ocean we’re immersed in as we plumb its depths. Think of the way light works. Its absence serves to hide and obscure what is there. Without light, what is present cannot be seen. When there is light, it makes plain what is there. It makes visible that which was hidden. Love and fear might be seen this way too. Remember that God’s love achieves its purpose, its end, is made complete and therefore “perfect,” in the receipt of love by the beloved. God is love and is always loving; we are the beloved and are always loved. Nothing can change this.
But fear, when indulged, would seek to obscure this essential loveliness of God and our essential character as the beloved, like the absence of light hides the truth of what is there. When we lose our awareness of who we are as the beloved, we not only diminish ourselves, but God is obscured in our gaze. We revert to seeing God essentially not as a lover but as a judge who will punish us for our imperfections. And this is why it is crucial to understand that “perfection,” as has been alluded to previously this week, can mean that which is complete, fulfilled, having achieved its end. Recall from earlier in the week that God’s love is made complete, fulfilled, and perfect in us when we love one another. So the love of God reaches its end as we love each other. In doing so, we are “in the light;” we see the truth of ourselves and of God. We know who we are, and who God is. Therefore, we do not fear.
Suggestions for action
Keep trying this breath prayer that we’ll practice this week:
Inhale: God, you are love.
Exhale: When I love, I know that I’m yours.
Try to meditate using this breath prayer for five minutes or so. Then take your time and read our passage for today. If you have time, re-read verses 7-17 too and keep going all the way to verse 21. If you’re short on time, just read verse 18. Take another five minutes and meditate again using the breath prayer above. As you end, pray that the light of God’s love would shine brightly within you as you love those around you. Let that light expose any places within you where fear may hide, and then watch it dissipate like light dispels the shadows. Be confident that fear has no place in your love-life with God. You can rest in this.