“Jesus is love.”
How often do we hear this? If we’re around Christians, or within Christian circles, then we’ve probably heard it a lot. At the same time, however, it wouldn’t be unusual if we were confused, because, though people talk about Jesus, and His love for us, from the moment we grab a bulletin at the church door, actually living as if we believed it were true is a different matter.
Do YOU know anyone who worships and follows Jesus as if they really, really believed He loved them unconditionally, all the time, and without condemnation, disapprobation, and disapproval?
“Love cannot live with fear.”
What a great statement, although it’s not a Bible verse; rather, it’s a line from P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley, a modern-day mystery that follows the life of Elizabeth (nee Bennet) and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fame.
While it’s such a good line that Jane could have written it herself, you’ll be happy to know that someone else who writes about love, the apostle John, penned the sentiment much, much earlier than either James or Austen:
“There is no fear in love,” 1 John 4:18 reassures us, continuing,
“But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
What Is God Really Thinking?
Disappointment, disapprobation, disapproval, exasperation, irritation, impatience: none of these emotions have anything to do with perfect love, and yet, within the minds of too many Christians, they are the very embodiment of what God feels, whenever He looks at us:
1) Because we don’t have enough faith.
2) Because we didn’t read the Bible that day.
3) Because we didn’t say “thank you,” first during our Quiet Time Prayer Time.
4) Because we didn’t have a Quiet Time Prayer Time that day.
5) Because we skipped church.
6) Because we had an uncharitable thought about someone else.
7) Because we did something, anything, that human beings do every minute in the process of just breathing, and we weren’t perfect.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” one Christian quotes Matthew 5:48 to another, theoretically to encourage, but given that none of us is perfect, or can be, while we live on this earth, all this advisement does is remind us of how we have failed, yet again.
So why did Jesus say it?
Considering that the sentence concludes an entire chapter (Matthew 5) beginning with the Beatitudes and progressing through a series of statements about fulfilling the law; not committing murder, adultery, or divorce; and loving our enemies, one can pretty much conclude that being perfect is
1) Something to shoot for
2) Something we’re not necessarily going to hit.
Perfect Love Is . . . Perfect
And that’s why we focus on that perfect love — the love that DOESN’T have to do with punishment, punishment being something that we do not experience, or expect to experience, within the love of Christ, because as the apostle Paul reassures us in Romans 8:1,
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Yes, I know, Revelation 3:19 tells us,
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline,” but it’s wise to remember that because our heavenly Father is just that — heavenly, perfect, all wise, all good, and compassionate — it’s a sure bet that He’ll do a better job raising His children than we do ours, and really good human parents don’t give the impression to their children that they (the children) are hopelessly incompetent, irretrievably unsatisfactory, abominably imperfect, and distressingly defective.
Wise, mature parents recognize that children will have issues, and perverse is the mother who knocks down the baby and tells him to walk all over again, from the sofa, because he’s not steady enough.
Or the father who returns the wretchedly hand-sewn pillow, the product of five-year-old fingers, because it doesn’t look like something from Pier One Imports.
God’s Parenting Skills
Awful parents, we agree, create a climate of fear, unease, anxiety, and discouragement by yelling at their kids, withholding affection to bring about desired change, and expecting more than can possibly be given. (One of my favorite examples of perverse leadership was a sports coach who withheld praise to those who finished second, or less, in a heat, convinced that the children would be so desperate to earn her approval that they would try harder — how can one try harder than one’s best? — next time. A wiser person would recognize that eventually, you give up trying to please someone who cannot be pleased.)
Despite the wisdom of sensible human parenting, however, we as Christians walk fearfully and in chronic trepidation around our heavenly Father, punishing ourselves, mentally, in His name when we don’t meet standards that we have set up: we must be patient, all the time, our words never sharp, our actions never misguided, our faith — this is the big one — never unwavering, or else God will walk away from us, because we deserve no less.
But this has never been God’s way, He who loved us first (1 John 4:16).
In a weekly children’s program years ago, I helped 6-year-olds lisp through 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” and if they didn’t have the slightest idea of what they were saying, neither did their adult teachers:
God. Loves. Us.
He loved us first. He loves us last. He loves us always.
We cannot alienate Him from us because of our human imperfections, but we can alienate ourselves from feeling secure in His arms by allowing fear to creep into our relationship. His perfect love doesn’t go away — we just don’t realize and recognize that it is there.
“Love cannot live with fear.” — P.D. James.
“There is no fear in love.” the Apostle John.
Let Jesus — and His perfect love — drive out your fear.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I am overcoming years of religious miseducation by discovering, daily, who God is, and why He’s worth worshiping and loving.
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