As I take a few moments to pause with God at the start of my day, today’s “verse of the day” at BibleGateway.com really caught me this morning.
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. 1 John 4:18 NIV
In the context of this verse we find John, the disciple of Jesus, talking about how God’s love is complete in us so we don’t have to fear judgement in eternity. He goes on to explain that if we live in fear, we are not complete in Christ. Christ first loved us, even in the midst of our fear so if we claim to love Christ but hate our brother we are living out a lie. You can read it for yourself in 1 John 4:7-21.
I know that the “judgement of God” feels like it is a long way off and that most of us feel that we have a great deal to fear right now. Perhaps we are missing John’s point…and please don’t miss it…If Christ’s love is strong enough for things as huge as “the judgement of God” and “eternity” then it must be strong enough to teach us how to live without fear right now.
I used to think that apathy is the opposite of love. Now I believe that the opposite of love is fear. We cannot love if we are controlled by fear…and many of us live in fear.
Many reading this will think to themselves, “I don’t live in fear, bring it on.” I have a side arm with at least six reasons why I am not afraid.” If you believe that you don’t live in fear then try this little test. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic, examine how you feel toward that person at the moment. If your first inclination is to pray for that person then you are beginning to understand what it means to live without fear.
I know…It seems naive and maybe even a little silly to think that way. The world can be a dark and ugly place…and after all…”the guy made me angry.” “What does me being angry at a person who cut me off in traffic have to do with me living in fear?!” It is in these little things like praying for the people who annoy us where we find the very radical ways that Christ calls us to love others. If we can’t do the little things, how can we be trusted with things that really matter? Furthermore, I believe that if we dig at the core of even the little things that frustrate us and make us angry we will find fear. I, therefore, believe that if we examined the core of much of the evil hatred in our world, we would find fear.
So what do we do to conquer fear and live in love? The answer for the Christ follower is to practice. Paul writes in Galatians 5:25, “if we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” Many of is think that living by the spirit is only a mystical idea. It is actually a very practical idea that requires will and physical effort. So lets bring this home as and make practicing love over fear very practical.
The next time someone cuts you off in traffic force yourself to pray for that person. Now I don’t mean that you should pray for that person the way that Jaron and his long road to love suggests. I challenge you to force yourself to really pray for God to bless that person’s day. Everyone has a story. You will not lock eyes with anyone who hasn’t, is, and/or is about to deal with some sort of drama or tragedy on their lives. So pray for those people who cut you off in traffic. You don’t have to be weird and try to say “God Bless You” to everyone and you don’t have to be friends with everyone. However, you might be surprised. God may bless them through your prayers, but God just may change you in the process. You may just take one step away from fear toward love. To live without fear, is to live in and practice the radical love of Christ.