READ: 1 John 4
THINK: Sometimes it’s funny to see the things that get little kids really excited. My 18-month old daughter loves to climb everything that she possibly can and has recently grown tall enough to climb up on the end table in her room. This allows her to reach the light switch, which appears to be a never-ending source of entertainment for her. (Side note: people who make kids toys should all be fired. I have a house that is crammed full of them – too full – and my daughter would rather play with a stinking light switch!) Emma stands there flipping the switch back and forth, watching the light turn off and on and off and on with a big dumb smile on her face and an occasional giggle. And her brother, strangely, likes to talk me through it as though this incredible experience needed a play-by-play announcer to be complete. “Dad! Dad, now she turned it off. Now it’s on. Now it’s off again. See Dad?”
Something in the play-by-play announcing struck me the other day when he said, “Dad, now the dark is gone because the light is on.” On one hand it is an inane “duh!” statement, but on the other it’s quite profound. When the light is on, the dark(ness) is gone. Because darkness isn’t a real, quantifiable thing. Light is. Darkness is simply the absence of light. I think that in this chapter John is making the same observation about fear as it relates to love. Fear is not a real thing. It is simply a phenomenon experienced in the absence of perfect love.
What is this perfect love? John says it is the love that God has for us, the love that is so recklessly extravagant that God sent his Son into the world as an atoning sacrifice for our sins so that we could be reconciled to him for eternity. That love! It’s huge, it’s unshakable, and it changes everything about our world.
And we have a burden to share that perfect love with those around us. That’s what God calls us to. The way that he asks us to respond to the love we have received from him is to love him by showing his love to those around us. That’s not easy. It requires vulnerability on our part. C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness…The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers…of love is hell.”
This danger might cause us to be afraid. Afraid to step out, afraid to show love, afraid to be vulnerable and open ourselves up. But we must remember that this fear is not real. It is simply the absence of an understanding of just how deeply God loves us, and how his perfect love completely redefines our identity and our future. When we understand that fully then we are able to look with his eyes of love upon the broken world around us and boldly sing along with one of my favorite worship songs, The Church, “We’re not afraid. We will abandon all, to hear your name on lips across the world.”
ASK: What fears keep me from being bold in my faith, from sharing God’s love with others? Why is fear so powerful? How does understanding God’s perfect love drive out fear in my life?
PRAY: Today, I’d encourage you to pray a prayer written by Saint Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I might not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.