“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. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.“ (1 John 4:18-21, NIV)
John reminds us that fear and love cannot coexist. When there is mutual love (God loves us and we love him), the believer has no angst related to God’s judgment. We express this love, he tells us, not just in church and in religious devotion, but in our love for our fellow humans. When we name the name of Jesus, but do not love those around us, we are manifestly liars.
What happens when we, as believers, live a lie? What happens when we say we love God but disobey his command to love others? The prophet Jeremiah warns us of this (topic of this week’s sermon “Terror on Every Side”): “I will make you a terror to yourself…” (Jer. 20:4). This is similar to what John warns: fear and hatred go together.
That fear is everywhere in our country today – outside and inside our borders, among the races, stoked by the politicians. Of course, there’s no easy way out of all this. But the main instrument God uses to bring us back to himself and out of the realm of terror is his love. We love because he first loved us. Our love for him is simply a response to his prior love for us. And our love for others proves that our love for him is real.
What I see in America today is that we are terrorizing ourselves. We turn on each other because we have rejected God’s love.
I hope you have the opportunity to experience and express God’s love this week!