John and Jeremiah – Love versus fear


Photo by Aaron Burden

In this installment of Faithful Fridays, following Mom’s questioning, I lay out my thoughts on very two complementary verses — ones that ably encapsulate God’s love and His faithfulness to His people: 1 John 4:18, and Jeremiah 32:40.

Perfect love casts out fear

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

— 1 John 4:18

Like any verse, this one is not to be taken out of context. John here talks about the perfect work of Jesus on the cross, which echoes back to the most popular Bible verse — the words of Jesus as transcribed in the Gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

— John 3:16

We also go back to the fundamentals of God and the separation caused by sin. Anything that is not perfection, anything that misses the mark of God’s standard of perfection, is sin; and the only acceptable retribution for sin is death.

Death, in the context of Christianity, is the eternal separation from God. As illustrations, on one hand, David’s Psalms sing of the beauty and peace that the presence of God brings, and the Book of Jonah has the stubborn prophet lament over how being in the belly of a fish is like being sent to Sheol (hell), and all he can do is call on God’s name.

Generally, people fear death. But knowing God, knowing what Jesus has done for us to cleanse us of sin to bring us back into the Holy presence of God, and choosing to believe that and to place our faith in that, fear and death are conquered. And this is all wrapped in the brand of love that God can only give.

John does not mean for us to be foolish and engage in sinful carpe diem. He talks of the fear that prevents us from doing good things: loving others, going out of our comfort zones when God tells us to go and make disciples, placing our faith in Him when all else fails.

John’s letter does not say that we will be perfect within this lifetime, but our journey with Jesus will take us from “glory to glory” as expressed by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians —

“Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

— II Corinthians 3:16-18

As of late, I am learning how difficult it is to be a follower of Christ. There are times where I doubt His work in my life, and I start to fear that I may not even be worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.

Well, of course I’m not. We were born as heirs to the rebellion of Adam and Eve. But God’s love is that big, that important, that gracious, that He was the one to step down from Heaven to bring us back and to adopt us into the children He has meant for us to be. He made us, we rebelled, and then He brought us back. God paints the image of a lovesick husband in the book of Hosea who pines after his wife even if she had gone to sleep with other men.

It’s not “grace”, nor can it be called a “gift” if we had to earn His love. The gift is costly — it was royal and innocent blood that was spilled on the Cross, after all, the blood of the Son of the Creator of universe. We have to cling to the truth of His promise and His word, which brings me to the second verse Mom was asking about.

Faithful love

“…’And I will make an everlasting covenant with [Israel], that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.”

— Jeremiah 32:40-41

I reflected on this verse a few weeks back, and I was struck as to how “covenant” was translated into French as “alliance.” I then remembered that “wedding bands” in French are called “bagues d’alliance”.

And then, “alliance” was further highlighted for me in the statement, “I will not turn away from doing them good.” The French translation split the sentence into two statements:

  1. “Je ne me détournerai pas d’eux”; and
  2. “je leur ferai du bien.”

The difference is subtle yet poignant. The French sentence basically says: “I will not give up on them; I will do them good.”

God’s love can never be defined in human terms. We think about love as a feeling — fleeting, something that needs to be “kindled”, it’s there or it’s not. But God’s love is a covenant — a decision, and a promise of future love.

This is a hard idea to comprehend, but God has never broken any of His promises, and He never will. He knows that we are imperfect beings. He knows our innermost parts, and He knows the paths we have taken and we will be taking until He calls us home.

God’s covenant will never be broken. This covenant was carved into stone, and this covenant was sealed with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The fear that God speaks of here is not the kind of fear that will send us away from Him, or will make us feel that we are slaves. This is a kind of fear that is the equivalent of awe and reverence — like when you see a clear night sky and realize that each pinprick of light is a huge sun that may even be bigger than our solar system. It’s the kind of fear that is like realizing how huge our universe is, and while there are still things we have yet to learn about it, God holds everything in the palm of His hand.

And yet, He knows the number of hairs on our heads and calls us by name.

There are many things of God’s word that makes us doubt upon first glance, but that is part and parcel of a relationship. And just like in a human relationship, we might question what a person does or says, but ultimately, we focus on who the person is. We know God to be faithful, loving, gracious, powerful, and perfect. We must remind ourselves every day of that truth.

About Cielo

I am a paper-pusher by day, a log by night, an aspiring singer-dancer and a wannabe artist in-between. I am also a Professional Space Cadet.
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