Perfect Love Shuts Out Fear
April 25, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First John 4:13-21
Love Shuts Out Fear
1. In the passage read for today we had the words, "Perfect love shuts out fear." "Love" certainly does have the power to drive away fear. We have often experienced that. Fear and insecurity are a part of life. No matter how muscular and macho you may be, just being told at a health examination, "You've got a spot on your lung," you'll end up obsessing with worry and fear. That's how we are. But, though it [can] happen to anybody, if just one person loves you, it changes things. You [can] overcome your fears and count on still living after that. In that sense, [we] can say that love certainly does have the power to drive out fear.
2. It is like that with just human love. With God's love then, it is even more true. Love does have the power to shut out fear. When we see that we are loved by God, and when we can believe that we are loved by God, then fear goes away on its own. If only we understand that we are loved by God, and if we can believe and trust in God's love, then ultimately even the fear of death will go away. Indeed, if I may take it a step further, assuming that there is a final judgment on the other side of death, even in that scene where our very lives ultimately undergo the judgment, there is no need to be afraid. -- Because God is ultimately the one who has the authority to judge all things. Since that God does love us, there is no longer any need to fear anything. That said, to say that "Perfect love shuts out fear" is to also make a statement about the bottom line in life. We live, but not in fear; we are going into the future, but not in fear; we will finish out our lives, but not in fear; we will stand before God, but not in fear. For that reason we need the love that shuts out [all] fear.
3. And John says that this kind of relationship with God has already been given to us. Just before that in verse sixteen the text says, "We know and believe the love of God for us. God is love." How blessed we are to be able to say that! We can even wonder what else do we need besides this in order for a person to be happy on the ultimate level? We have also been invited into this kind of happiness. Therefore, we are here in this text and are now hearing this message.
The Love Of God Manifested On The Cross
4. In this same way, we too can live saying along with John, "We know and believe the love of God for us. God is love!" We must face the same direction as John for that reason. Where is John facing [when] he says, "God is love?" Towards where is John turned [when] he says, "We've known the love of God for us!?"
5. It is plain that the words "God is love" are not simply found in the experiences [we have] in society; because the irrational things that happen and which fill society severely resist the words "God is love." Are the words "God is love" easily connected to the sad news that we see and hear every day? I don't think they are. Or is John writing this because he was living a life that was peaceful and that was filled with happiness, which was completely detached from such sorrow and pain? I hardly think so. I say that because irrational pain and sorrow, for the church that was in the midst of persecution, was the usual and familiar experience instead.
6. When John says, "God is love," it was not the events all around him that he was focusing on, but rather on Christ. Even more particularly, [he was focusing on] the crucified Christ. Just a bit before the passage read aloud for today the following words are recorded. "We have not loved God, but rather God has loved us, and he has sent his son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin. Here is where love is," (4:10). As his fingertip points to the Christ who hung on the cross, he says, "Here is where love is."
7. You probably know "The Story Of The Garden Of Eden," written at the beginning of the Bible. It is the story about Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the tree. The thing that gets one's attention quickly there is the next picture. It is written as follows. "That day, about when the breeze blew, the sound was heard of the Lord God walking through the garden. When Adam and the woman avoided the face of the Lord God and hid among the trees in the garden, the Lord God called Adam. 'Where are you?' He replied, 'When I heard your footsteps in the garden, I became afraid. I hid myself; because I am naked," (Genesis 3:8-10).
8. Can't you just see this scene? There's a cool breezing a-blowing, the flowers in the field, the birds in the air, and everything [God] has made are all happy in God, happily living the life that God gave to them, and meanwhile, Adam and Eve are hiding in the shade of a dampened tree. Evading the face of God! They can no longer live turned directly towards God's face. Therefore, they now live constantly full of fear and worry. What a miserable figure they are! But, this is not a story from long long ago. It also [refers to] our own figures that are no different now.
9. Nevertheless, God is chasing right after us, though we live hiding in the trees, avoiding God's face. [It's still] just like God called out to "Adam! Where are you?" The word "Adam" means "human." God is actually calling out "Human! Where are you?" In this way then, he is calling out to us, he is inviting us as well, he is extending his hand out to us. That's what it means when he sent Jesus Christ into this world and he put Christ on the cross. God has always been extending out his hand of love through thick and thin. "Human! Where are you? The atoning sacrifice has been slain. Your sins are forgiven. So, it's all forgotten now. You don't have to hide. You don't have to live avoiding my face all afraid and worried. Lift up your face and live with your face turned directly towards me!" That's about what he has said. And in that, God has given an expression of his intent, that is, "You are a sinner; but still I love you anyway!" That's the cross of Christ. So, John says, "Here is where love is." While turning [his] eyes on the cross of Christ, he says, "God is love."
Abide In Love!
10. Thus, God has revealed his own love through Christ. He has made known the love of God by the cross. So, for us, it is important that we receive that love with thanksgiving and live believing in God's love. The Bible expresses this as "abiding in love." By believing in God's love that way then, we live and become one with God. "God is love. The person who abides in love abides in God, and God also abides in that person," says the scripture. This is the faith life. It is a life of believing in God's love and abiding in God's love.
11. Thus, it is a serious matter that we do "abide in love." No matter how much God has loved us, love is not perfected on a one way street. That's how it's supposed to be. The relationship of love is perfected exactly because we accept love, we live believing in love, and we abide in love. Put another way, God's love is to be made complete in us. When God's love is not a one way street but is made complete in us, then we can say along with John, "Thus, since love is being made complete in us, we can have confidence on the day of judgment; for, in this world, we too are like Jesus," (verse seventeen).
12. Where it says "we too are like Jesus" the text really says "we too are like him." Like the New Interconfessional Version, we should see it, subjectwise, as speaking of Jesus. This is actually an astonishing statement. Can you all say, "In this world I am like Jesus?" Do you think that "Such a thing is absolutely impossible!?" Yet, when we "abide in love," then we can say that. We can say, "In this world I am like Jesus." In what sense [can we make this statement]? We can say "In this world I am like Jesus" in just one sense, that is, in a relationship with God the Father.
13. Can you imagine Jesus hiding and avoiding the face of God? That's about impossible. Why? Because he is sinless. He had no need to hide all afraid. Therefore, always turned directly to God the Father, he called out "Father!" And we too are permitted to live the same way as Jesus. Why? As I already stated, because the sacrifice to atone for sin was slain. Therefore, there is no longer any need to say, like Adam did, "Since I heard your footsteps I became afraid and hid myself." While in this world, lifting our faces, we too can call out "Father!" We can be like Jesus while in this world. That being the case then, like John says, even the day of the last judgment no longer has to be an object of dreadful fear. We can even say, "We can have confidence on the day of judgment."
14. Therefore, the important thing is not that we shut out fear the best we can. [The important thing is not that we] do the best we can to remove from our lives any of the many different causes for fear, like the fear of living, the fear of dying, or the fear of the final judgment. Even if we did that and did remove them on our own, fear would still keep coming one after the other. When you have found a solution for one, then the next one would come. More important than doing that, we ought to believe the love of God. We are to live believing in love. We are to abide in love. Because God loves us, it is important that we live believing in love and that [his] love is being perfected in us. Let's begin walking into the new week expressing the faith along with John, "We know and believe the love of God for us. God is love!"