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1 John 4:16-18

1 John 4:16-18
...16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There 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.



 

Abiding in Faith and Love

All that Jesus is and does testifies to and manifests God's love. Those who confess Jesus as Son of God and Savior know and rely on the love God has for us. Rely on suggests the trustworthy nature of that in which we put our trust. Christians can count on the devotion of God's love, because they have experienced it in God's faithfulness to them. They can rely on God. The cynical songwriter of "Lemon Tree" who counseled, "Don't put your faith in love" really meant "don't put your faith in people." But John writes that we can trust God's love, because we can trust God. The evidence of God's steadfast love is the sending of the Son. It is impossible to confess the Son without at the same time understanding him to be the incomparable manifestation of God's love.

So in verse 16 the Elder moves easily into a reassertion of his earlier thesis that God is love, a statement that is difficult to improve upon, explain or paraphrase. We can say that God's nature is love, that God's actions are loving, that God repeatedly demonstrates love for us and others, that God loved even a hostile world and that God sent Jesus to make all of this known to us. That God's love provides the standard for love means that authentic love is steadfast and constant, that it is directed toward others with life-giving healing, that it seeks out its enemies for good and that it is known pre-eminently in the cross. Human love de rives its character and shape from the standard of divine love.

As noted above, we must not turn the affirmation God is love around to read "love is God." The second part of verse 16 lends itself to such a misreading when it says whoever lives in love lives in God. But the Elder can write whoever lives in love lives in God only because he has first written God is love. In other words, he assumes that those who love live in God--but only because he assumes that those who live in God necessarily love. Love comes from God who is love; hence, those who live in love show that they live in God. Love for others and living in relation ship with God are inseparable. The dissidents who claim to live in God, although they do not love the children of God, live neither in love nor in God. God Encourages Us in Love.

The relationship of divine and human love is further developed here. God makes our love complete and so gives us confidence. Love that is complete is love that reaches its goal by being bestowed upon our brother or sister. To put it another way, the shape of perfect love is triangular: love comes as a gift from God that enables us to love each other and so return to God the gift that is given to us. In the words of C. H. Dodd, "The energy of love discharges itself along lines which form a triangle, whose points are God, self, and neighbor." Where any one leg of the triangle is missing, love remains incomplete and immature.

But where the triangle is whole, love is complete. As a result, we have confidence on the day of judgment because our love signals to us that we already enjoy fellowship with God. And those who share fellowship with God in the present need not fear that they shall be judged unfavorably in the future. God will not take away from them the salvation and love that has already been granted to them in the Son. They need have no fear of punishment.

The Elder further underscores the point when he writes, in this world we are like him. Here is an analogy between the children of God and the Son of God at the point of fellowship with God. As the Son has free access to and confidence with God, so too does the believer have a boldness with God. And, since boldness and fear are opposites of each other, the author writes that in love, the hallmark of our relationship to God and of Jesus' relationship to God, there is only confidence: not fear. As Barclay puts it, "When love comes, fear goes."

And so John writes, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. As the context shows, fear means fear of punishment by God when one comes to the judgment. Those who live in God do not need to fear God's judgment. But the statement ought not to be turned around to mean that any anxieties or fears are evidence that we are imperfect in love. Confidence and fear are opposites, and the Elder believes that because Christians have confidence before God they need not be frightened of God's judgment. Fear of being condemned has been driven out from them by the perfect love of God.

Nonetheless, many Christians are tortured by feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt and inadequacy, that they are not good enough for God, that somehow by trying harder they really can make God love them more. We cannot badger others into accepting God's love. Although we can preach and teach about it, and try to model it in our life and community, each of us must ultimately open up with vulnerability and humility to acknowledge our unworthiness and yet also to accept our own worth, which is sometimes the more difficult. In confessing our sin before God, we accept our unworthiness, not worthlessness! In that moment of vulnerability we discover that God is "faithful and just" and, through Jesus Christ, graciously covers the sinner with love and forgiveness. We know that although we have been found out, we have also been found. We come to accept that God sent the Son into the world because he deemed us worthy to be loved and forgiven, we who are created in the divine image and destined to become fully re stored to it when "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

To know that we are forgiven for our sin, loved in our weakness, saved by his mercy, destined for fellowship with God, all because we are supremely valued by God: that is to know the perfect love that drives fear away. It is not because of what we have done that we can have such confidence before God, but because of what God has done for us.

God Is the Source of Love