I’ve spent so many years of my life chasing perfection. In school, perfection was straight A’s. Now, it looks like being the perfect daughter, wife, and friend. But perfect is an impossible achievement. So when 1 John mentions, “perfect love,” it sounds like another item to add to my list of failed attempts. John shows us in 1 John 4:16-21 that God’s love is perfect, and as we experience His perfect love, our lives are transformed.
Perfect Love Comes From God
It comes from God because God IS love as John points out. We throw around the word “love” so much that it has lost its significance and commitment. I can say I love sushi today but grow tired of it tomorrow. People can say they love each other by candle light and walk away from the relationship before the wick burns out. Love is actually much more significant!
Did you know that Greek, the main language of the New Testament, actually has three words for “love?” The first is eros, which refers to sexual love like that between husband and wife. The second is phileo, which refers to the affection we feel toward our family and friends. And the third is agape which is the special, unconditional love that God the Father expresses for His Son, Jesus, and for us, His children.
In fact in John 14:21, Jesus refers to the person who has and keeps His commands. He says that “I will love (agape) him and will reveal Myself to him.” How exciting is it to learn that God wants to reveal Himself to us! He isn’t some great, unknowable entity in the sky. Look again at 1 John 4:16. John says that we know AND believe God’s love for us. The word for “know” in Greek comes from gnosko which means to know by experience. Lamentation 3:22-23 says that God renews His mercies and faithful love to us each morning. God is love, and His love never runs out!
We can know God’s love for us and still not believe it. We can respond with pride that, “God loves me because of how amazing I am.” Or we can respond with doubt that, “God could never love me.” We can also respond with sin by saying, “Since God loves me, I can act however I please.” But God wants us to respond with belief in Him as the perfect love to abide in.
Perfect Love Drives Out Fear
John uses the word agape in 1 John 4:18 when he says, “There is no fear in love (agape); instead, perfect love (agape) drives out fear.” Having a proper understanding of the three types of love helps us better grasp the truth John shares. John did not say that eros love drives out fear. If he did, then any dating relationship could heal us. John did not even say that phileo love drives out fear. If he did, then a mother’s love could conquer anything the world threw at us. Which word for love did John use? Yes, my sister in Christ, he used agape. It’s the perfect love that can only come from our perfect God. It drives out fear because Jesus paid the price of our sin. Therefore, I have no fear of the consequences of my sin. The Holy Spirit lives in me and guides me so I have no fear of this present age. And I have no fear of the future because God has conquered Satan.
Keep in mind, however, that John uses the word “fear” to mean afraid of. We are not afraid of judgment day once we are a believer. However, we still fear God which means we revere and respect the Lord. Once we respond in belief, God’s perfect love gives us confidence for judgment day. In verse 17, we don’t merely squeak by or get dragged through that day with a few bumps and bruises – we can approach the day with confidence; fully knowing that Christ’s sacrificial blood shed for us has made us righteous.
Perfect Love Motivates A Love For Others
So now, we love God and others because God first loved us. How do I show my husband that I love him? Is it enough to wake up, think about my love for him, and move on with my day? Is it enough to murmur a quick “I love you” as he leaves for work? Of course not! I show my love for my husband with both my words and my actions. The way I show my love to him varies each day. Some days, it’s a hug when I can tell he’s stressed. Or it’s a celebration brownie when he’s had a great success. Other days, it’s simply sitting on the couch next to him while we watch our favorite television show.
Loving God is similar. He poured out his agape love to us in an incredibly tangible way. That is, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! We then respond out of love, not obligation. In fact, Galatians 5 lists love as the first fruit of the Spirit. John goes so far as to call us liars if we say that we love God but we don’t love our brothers. “Brothers” is more than our biological siblings – it includes anyone we interact with. Loving our brothers is a command. We no longer have the excuse that someone is “unlovable.” After all, weren’t we unlovable when we were sinners? Yet God did not turn His back on us.
Have you ever been asked – why do you love God? I have. And I stammered through an answer that I love God because He first loved me. But why? Why does God’s agape version of love matter? The verse could easily read that we love God because He created us, He sustains us, or because He has all authority. God designed us to respond to Him out of love, not from fear of punishment or shame of not being enough. God’s perfect love sustains us each day.
Lord, thank You for how You renew Your faithfulness to us each morning. Help us to grasp Your perfect love and allow it to transform our lives to be rid of fear and our source of love for others.
1 John 3:1
I Corinthians 13