But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, ‘You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off ’;
do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
I John 4:16b-21
So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
One of the most ubiquitous phrases in scripture is: “Do not be afraid.” Half-command, half-reassurance, it does not suggest that there is nothing frightening about the world, only that we may overcome our fear with God’s help. “Do not be afraid, for I am your God.” In the passage from I John, we are reminded that “perfect love casts out fear,” suggesting that love, as much as courage, is the answer to the ways fear hobbles us.
Questions for Reflection
What are your three greatest fears (be as specific as you can)? How do they affect your life? What would you do differently today if any one of those fears disappeared? What difference might people notice in you? Try to recall a time in your life when love so overtook you that you were—temporarily—no longer afraid.