Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fearless Love -- Do you have it?

How would you like to be free of fear? I know many who have reasons to be afraid, like the people being martyred for their faith in Jesus, in many countries today. Many of them have responded to their captors and killers with love, not anger or fear, and their families have also refused to hate but are praying for their killers. What a witness! More than that, we can see that love and fear are contrary:
 you can either fear, or love. How can we love and not fear? Let's look.

In 1 John 4, we read words of wisdom from John, the apostle who lived the longest -- dying in his nineties, which was very unusual in those days. I think John was doing what many of us do as we age: focusing on fewer things in life, down to just the most important. For him, the repetitive message, in this letter, is the love of God expressed through those who truly believe in Jesus and have been filled with the Holy Spirit. John contrasts those who may have claimed to know God but who weren't showing any indication of the Holy Spirit's work in their lives, and says "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar" (verse 20). Strong words, from a man who had seen true and false believers and could tell the difference.

Earlier he writes "This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit" (v. 13) and "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them" (v. 16). The Holy Spirit, who is "God in us" is the spirit of love; so we are able to love because of the Spirit moving in us to love others (many of whom we wouldn't love on our own, let's admit it!).

John's point throughout his letter is that those who are Jesus' followers can be seen by the Spirit in them, who loves others. He writes again, "This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: 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" (v. 17-18). With the Holy Spirit moving through us, we know that we know God, so we have no fear of judgment to come; and because there is no fear in our love, we are able to love instead of being afraid. And in reverse, he says, if we are afraid, it's because we haven't yet matured in love, which comes from the Spirit -- so the Holy Spirit is not yet moving freely in us.

Our challenge, then, is to recognize the circumstances in which we are in fear. Those need examination, prayer, and repentance, so we can turn them over to the Holy Spirit, who will heal our selfish fear, replacing it with his love. That will mean letting go of our illusion of control, and asking the Spirit to move into that place instead. So instead of being irritated at someone, I'll ask the Holy Spirit to teach me how to love him or her, praying and serving their needs. Instead of being afraid of how someone will act, I'll learn to love them no matter how they act, because God-in-me loves them that way.

Love...or fear? We get the choice. Let's choose the Holy Spirit's love.

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