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Love Drives Out Fear

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

And so we know and rely on the love of God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: in this world we are like Jesus. There 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. – 1 John 4:16-18

At my church, we often remind each other to “be loving.” It’s a common phrase tossed around as if everyone knows how to do it. But what does it look like to “be loving?”

I can’t say I knew for sure. I had developed a keen eye for unloving. But loving was harder to recognize because the harshness of life caused me to focus my attention elsewhere. Anger, resentment, distrust, and unforgiveness kept me busy as I tried to protect myself from the reoccurrence of painful experiences. But that type of protection makes the vulnerability required to be loving almost impossible. Guarding myself closely isolated me from experiencing love or believing I could love others like Christ. I was stuck in that lonely place, unable to heal.

God’s grace changed my perspective. After spending time in a loving faith community, I began to see what it looked like to love as Christ loved. I really wanted to be like that, yet I still believed it was beyond my reach.

Rev. Gina saw something different. She invited me to join a caregiving ministry at the church. I responded with a skeptical yes; I was pretty sure her ability to assess a person’s character was suspect if she invited me to such a task. Either that, or she wasn’t listening to all the people who told me what I had come to believe: I was too quiet, too distant, or too unfriendly to relate well to others. However, something inside me wanted to serve in that ministry, so I silenced the feelings of bewilderment and self-doubt just long enough to move forward.

Still plagued with doubt, one day I gathered up the nerve to ask Rev. Gina why she asked me to join her in ministry. I confessed all my disqualifying characteristics and how my past responses to life should certainly keep me from caring for others. Rev. Gina listened to all I had to say. When I was done, she said, “Toni, I don’t know anything about all that. I just saw your heart.” Then she changed the subject, letting me know the matter was closed. And so it was. From that moment on, I erased every doubt about my ability to be loving and opened myself up to learning how to give and receive love.

That’s what it means to show the love of Christ. It’s seeing people through transformed eyes — eyes that filter behavior through the lens of Christ’s love. When we look at others or ourselves as Christ looks as us, we recognize what is going on. A rough exterior no longer looks heartless. Instead, we recognize it as a safeguard against the harshness of life. The x-ray vision of Christ allows us to see beneath the surface and sparks curiosity about what is underneath. Instead of leaving others in their self-imposed isolation, we have hope that God’s perfect love will drive out their fear of rejection, abandonment, or cruel treatment. We become like Christ, inviting them into safe, connected relationships. We allow others to learn to give and receive love in those safe spaces. Rev. Gina taught me that I could only learn to be loving in the presence of love.

It feels liberating to finally draw on the love God’s people shower on me. Even more than that, I cherish quiet moments of solitude where I can absorb God’s infinite love. In the presence of God, the fear that once held me hostage erodes. Transformed by God’s love, I am learning what it means to “be loving!”

What happens when you sit in the loving presence of God today? How does that change your beliefs? Who can you extend God’s love to so another person might become complete in love?

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