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.
What is the opposite of love? Quoting 1 John 4:18, some say it’s fear, and I think they’ve got a rather good argument for it. If you have a spectrum that scales love; then fear would be at the opposite end of it. What about hate, then? I feel that hate is not an opposite of love, but merely an absence of love. If you have a spectrum of love and fear, they are opposites. You can love and fear the same things. That’s why they are opposites. If you have perfect love for something, there is no fear. In that equation, there should be no hate. Love and hate aren’t technically opposites, even if we often feel that way. Hate is merely the absence of love. In this study we will examine the idea of fear being the opposite of love, and how we have no reason to fear if we are able to love.
There is no fear in love – first we need to make an assumption, that this love is not the mortal form of love, but the love that comes form the Lord – love that is rooted in Christ. The love mentioned in 1 Cor 13, the love mentioned in Romans 12. And the second assumption is that this is not holy fear – which really just means reverence to God. Holy fear is not what we normally view as fear – where you revere and respect God and you have a degree of grief and guilt in you when you sin against his Word. So, assuming that this is godly love and not worldly love; and assuming that this is not holy fear, let us examine the idea of ‘there is no fear in love’ through the three points mentioned in this verse:
(1) fear has to do with punishment – fear can be seen as a punishment to men – in some versions this phrase is rendered – fear has torment, which though seen as a faulty or inadequate translation by many, delivers its meaning to us rather well, I feel. Fear is a penalty – a punishment to us, and this is a punishment that causes us great distress and torment. We suffer when we fear. We are in pain when we fear. We are slaves to fear – The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship [Romans 8:15]- but no longer so when we received Christ into our lives.
(2) perfect love drives out fear – Perfect in the Bible often means complete – and hence this love is not a reserved or lacking form of love – I don’t think anybody naturally knows how to love, but as we live and we experience and we grow, we learn to love more completely, more perfectly in a Christ-like manner. Let this love be sincere [Romans 12:9|Article]. Fear is temporary – as we learn how to love completely, this perfect love drives out the fear in us. In a way, we can thus conclude that fear is a method to introduce perfect love into our lives – to overcome fear, we need perfect love – the kind of Christ-like love that comes from the Lord. The love for God’s kingdom, the love for our enemies, the love for God’s people.
(3) not made perfect in love – and this brings the entire idea into a full circle – if your love is complete, you’ll have no fear, because loves drives out fear. Yet if you fear, and there is still some form of fear in you, then your love is still lacking, and it is still incomplete. Hatred and bitterness is often conveniently used to mask our fears. If you have hatred or bitterness in you with regards to something, there’s probably something that you fear as well. When we hate, or when we appear to hate; when we fear, or when we lose ourselves in indifference; let us learn to perfect our love by gaining strength from God.
Love has never been a topic that I’m really good at, or something that I’m exceptionally familiar with – just that as a Christian, we would all have some degree of understanding about the concept of Christian love, because love is arguably the very basis and foundation of our Christian faith. Love is such a fundamental concept in Christianity that, to simplify it and to facilitate our understanding of love, the apostle John simply concludes prior to this verse that God is love [1 John 4:8]. And God is perfect – Jesus told us that [Matthew 5:48|Article]. Hence, the love that God embodies is perfect, and it’s this love that we’re seeking as we seek to imitate Christ and lead a Christ-like life. I am perhaps not the best person to speak of this, but I don’t think perfect love is something that, once acquired, stays forever. Fear can easily reenter our lives. Loving with God’s perfect love is a constant struggle, a constant aim. And at the end of the day, when you find yourself lacking the love for somebody (or something), the reason is probably not down to hate, but down to fear. And the way to overcome this fear, is perfect love.