There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love].
How many of us live in fear? Or live in dread, knowing that our Christian walk is not what it should be? If you are like me, I suffer from times where I feel my passion for Christ has grown luke-warm, and I long to regain that burning desire for Him, and to feel His presence so close that I know He is just beyond the veil that separates this world from the spiritual realm. And I am fearful about feeling separated from Him.
What does our Scripture tell us is the antidote to this poisonous fear? If we are experiencing fear, how does the Word tell us to conquer that emotion? It's the word most closely associated with our Savior ... LOVE! But, I must admit that I can't always wrap my head around that solution. God Is Love has become nearly a cliché in Church doctrine, and I'm not sure that we Christians know how to apply it or how it works; or even what it means. Just as the last words of this verse say ... "the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]" ... we don't truly understand God's love, or how to express our love towards Him.
Jesus clearly tells us that love is at the heart of being a disciple for Him ... it is our mission, our ministry, and our purpose. He makes it obvious by telling us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and to love others as we love ourselves. Those are the commandments we are to obey, and they result in godly living! Combined with obedience to the Truth in Scripture, we should find unity with God, Jesus, and our fellow brethren in the Body of Christ.
That is the oneness that Jesus desired for His Church -- to be able to share in the love and obedience to the Father that He had experienced. But what I think we tend to dismiss is the "obedience" part of that statement. The Church has been very good at disseminating the message that "we love because God first loved us", and that by loving others, we are imitating the pattern and example that Jesus exemplified by laying down His life for us.
But what of the instances of His obedience that showed the power of God? For instance in John 9:1-6, Jesus healed a man who had been blind since birth. Did He do this out of strict compassion and love for this man? Scripture tells us that Jesus revealed to His disciples that the blind man must be healed in obedience to the Father in order to show the power of God to do such work. Yes, it is out of the love of God for us that He wants us to know He has the power to heal. There are many other examples in the Bible of Christ's obedience through the miracles and signs He performed at the Father's request. He did not do them of His own volition, but because it was His Father's will.
And clearly, Christ's ultimate act of obedience was to go to the Cross so that the lost of the world could be saved from God's justified wrath. Again, God's love for us is the reason that Christ was obedient. I think we Christians have an elementary understanding of what that love is and how we are to show it to others. But do we know that we are to show it to our Father in Heaven by obeying Him, which means to seek His will in all instances, just as Jesus did? Our Savior trusted the commandments of His Father and never doubted; He unquestioningly obeyed.
I honestly think we fear because we do not trust that God will fulfill His end of the bargain. "What if I decide to believe the Bible [that we have the authority and power of Jesus to heal as He did] and step out to lay hands on my sister to heal her migraine headache? What if it doesn't work"? Could it possibly be that you are not loving [confidently trusting] the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind? Remember, our Scripture today tells us that perfect love -- that which is complete and full-grown -- is what drives out fear. We cannot expect to jump to the head of the class and become like Jesus on our first step outside the box.
But we can be obedient, and trust that God's love never finds Him enacting divine punishment when we step out in obedience. In fact, could it be that our obedience is in response to the knowledge of God's love for us; that knowledge that comes from a heart and mind and soul that seeks Him? We have all heard the familiar Scripture "perfect love casts out fear", and may have understood that the perfect love belonged to God or Jesus. That is certainly one way to interpret this passage. But what if that perfect love was the growth and maturation of our love for God, so that we come to a full and thorough understanding of Him and the realization that through continued obedience we have nothing to fear -- that like Jesus, obedience to the Authority and Power of God, the Father, drives out all fear... no fear of God's divine punishment; no fear that we can disappoint Him; no fear that the Enemy can defeat us or enslave us. Through the interactive relationship between us and God and Jesus, there is no room for fear... but there is the freedom to grow and nurture a life founded on love and obedience. And that's a life that fulfills our mission and purpose as a Christian.