“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” This is one of my favorite verses but to be honest, it’s always bothered me. I loved the idea of it, but what does fear and love have to do with each other? What exactly does perfect love look like and how can love cast out fear? Megan recently had me watch a movie called Luca. I wasn’t really excited to watch it, but since my migraines had confined me to the couch, I decided to take advantage of the situation. Plus, it made a good excuse to cuddle with her. It’s a silly little cartoon about a sea monster and how he braves the world of humans. One of the themes repeating through it is fear. Fear of trying new things, of taking risks, of facing the unknown, of stepping out of his comfort zone. Fear of letting people see the real him. His friend wanted to try something new, and the little sea monster immediately started listing excuses of why he couldn’t. In response his friend told him that he had a Bruno in his head and needed to stop listening to him. That the only way to stop him was to yell, “Silencio Bruno!!” I’ve found that there are those of us that are plagued by Bruno in our heads. The “what ifs” take on a life of their own and follow us around whispering doubts in our ears. Telling us that we aren’t enough. That if people saw the real us, they’d laugh, or leave us, or think less of us. That safety comes from hiding and staying in our own little world. So, what does “there’s no fear in love” mean? And what kind of fear are we talking about? Fear of tight spaces, or spiders? Fear of dying? Fear of missing out on football?
At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) he ends up having to face his greatest fear. Showing everyone the real him, the sea monster. Of course, some of them gasped in horror, others shouted in anger. His family watched with bated breath afraid of what might come next. And then his friends stepped up on his behalf. Trusted people in the village came to his side and stood with him, not shrinking away from his scales or his tail. You can watch as the fear drains from his face to be replaced with confidence. His future is still unsure. The sea monster hunters still want to kill him, but he’s realized something more valuable than life itself. Love. He’s loved for who he is. The original word for fear in this verse is the same word we get phobia from. Meaning to dread, or terror. This isn’t just scared of the dark, this is a shake you to your core fear. One that threatens to completely destroy you. I believe love casts out fear in the sense that when someone loves you it gives you confidence. The ability to know that if you let your sea monster show they will still stand by your side. But I also believe that there is a much deeper meaning to this verse.
In Sunday school the other day we studied this passage, and for the first time in a while I read it in context. “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:17-18 One of the things I’ve really started enjoying is looking at the original meaning of the words in scripture. There are so many words we use in our society that meant something different, even just a couple hundred years ago. For example, if you look up gentleman, its definition is – A man of gentle or noble birth or superior social position. When I say, “he’s a real gentleman,” I’ve never had anyone ask me who his daddy is or what position he holds. So, I decided to look up some of the words in these verses. One of the things I do when I’m doing my devotions is to rewrite the verse using some of the definitions of the original words. “Love has been completed among us in this way: that on the day of judgement we can have free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage; because as He is, so are we in this world. Therefore, there is no fear in love; love is completed and finished there is no reason to fear anymore because fear involves punishment. But he who fears has not been completed by love.” This isn’t talking about random fears, this is speaking directly to the fear of hell. Fear of separation and punishment from our actions. Freedom is living in the confidence of what Christ did on the cross. “For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son. That whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” I know without a shadow of a doubt that when this life is over, and I stand before God for judgement that Christ already paid for my sin. That the punishment for it is no longer required of me. That His perfect and complete love for me has given me the ability to say, “Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory?” Or in other words, “Silencio, Bruno!!!”