Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1 John 4:18 -- On Love and Fear

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:18

The relationship between fear and love here is intriguing.  In normal circumstances, fear and love seem to be able to exist together.  You can fear for someone, and maybe even fear someone, and still be able to love them.  Even in the scriptures we are taught to fear God, right?  Leviticus 25:17 seems pretty clear on that one: "thou shalt fear thy God."  And yet God is love... so, we're supposed to fear God and love him, but in this verse those things aren't supposed to be able to exist together.  Somewhat confusing.  I think what makes it clear is that we're talking about two different types of fear.  When we're advised to fear God, it means the respect, awe, reverence type of fear.  And the type of fear that love casts out is the uncertainty, worry, anxiety type of fear.
This is a really good clarification if we think about what an ideal relationship with God is.  We're not aspiring to an abusive relationship here, where we are afraid of God and doing what he says so that he won't hit us or strike us with lightning.  We don't follow God only because the alternative is hellfire and damnation.  D&C 121:45 says "then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God."  2 Nephi 4:24 tells us "by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer."  These are not the actions of the abused.  As we learn and grow and live closer to the Lord, we respect him, yes, and we feel his strength and power... but instead of being worried and anxious in his presence, our righteousness gives us confidence and power, and we can speak to him with boldness... because he is our friend and our father, and we know that our relationship is okay.
I love the idea that torment and love can't exist together.  That someday, all worry and anxiety and that sort of fear will be completely out of our lives, because we will have learned perfect love.  We'll have perfect *confidence* in God's promises to us, and we will be able to perfectly embrace whatever is before us.  It might take us a while to get there, so today, maybe we should practice a little. :)  Let's love and respect God and the people around us, and let's do what we can to remove the torment from those interactions.

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