perfect love casts out fear

 "Perfect love casts out fear."

I've often thought of that biblical line in fearful times. And this year seems to be an especially fearful time, with the deadly pandemic, the related severe economic downturn, and a bitter national political battle on top of it. I guess I used to think that verse meant that if we focused on loving others, it would push out our fears for ourselves. Maybe that's true, but then love for others in distress can also stir fear for them. And lately I've been seeking for a deeper answer to the fears so prevalent around us.

It seems to me that only the love of God can cast out all fear. To love God is to love the one who cannot be threatened or lost or taken from us. It is loving the one who will never turn on us or let us down. But loving God can sometimes seem amorphous or intangible, more like an idea than a hug. Lately I've been trying to understand the reality of God more through the reality of the good things that come from God. God is not merely a conceptual "good." God is the source and sustainer of all that is good and right and beautiful in our world, all that we delight in and are inspired by every day of our lives. To affirm and embrace and participate in the real good we see around us is to love God. But there's even more in that. A few words after "perfect love casts out fear," John wrote, "we love because he first loved us." Thus the love we have for God, for all that is good and right and beautiful because it is from God, this love is evidence that God loves us. The love we have for God is the love that is from God, for us, in us. And to be loved by God, the almighty, eternal God, should be enough to cast out any fear.

So often we respond to fear with "fight or flight." And usually that leads to the desperate pursuit of power, in order to more effectively protect ourselves or destroy our enemies. But Jesus showed us how to dissipate fear with love. People could see the love of God in Jesus casting out his fear, and that showed them something beautiful that they could love. So that they might have God's love in them also.