There is no fear in perfect love

Published 11:33 am Friday, May 18, 2018

by Charles Qualls

Love is such a versatile word. 

Goodness knows it has to be… that poor little word “love.” Because we use it in 1,000 ways to express every feeling you could possibly put on the continuum from mild like to unbridled and ecstatic passion. If it’s a thing — there’s somebody who “loves” it. 

Songs about love are everywhere. From Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s tune called “In Another’s Eyes,” to Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs” they abound. Even Jimmy Buffett, who’s known more for funny and relaxing boat songs wrote “Come Monday,” for him a profound and vulnerable song about his love. Another favorite of mine, the extraordinary Michael Buble’ can almost only be explained because of love songs.

• I love ice cream sandwiches.

• I love to write.

• I love Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Football.

• I love to go on a cruise.

• I love to find a nice Tommy Bahama shirt in a thrift store.

• I love my favorite movie, “The American President.”

• Most days, I love our cats.

• I love a good night’s sleep.

• I love my congregation.

• I love Elizabeth. 

Did you hear the range of importance and the difference in depth? We bend and stretch that little word an awful lot, don’t we.  In the end, only love that is real matters to us. 

One of my favorite books is “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams.

For those of you who haven’t read it, it is a child’s book that tells the story of a velveteen rabbit who becomes real through the love of a little boy. Like so many children’s books, adults are also an audience of its deeper truths.

Early on in the story he meets the Skin Horse, who is real, and who explains to the Velveteen Rabbit what real love means:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. 

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter at all because once you are real you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”

1 John 4: 16 said it this way: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

These little letters of John capture an important call to health and love that any person or church would do well to pay attention to. We would do well to try to live by these words. To be sure that God’s kind of love lives in us and that we abide in it.

1 John 4:18-19 has another important word for us, though. One that as we gaze out into the future I think we would also do well to believe and to live by.

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

Not everyone in our life is easy to love. I know this because I am not always easy to love, either. Sometimes, love that reflects God will cost us dearly. Love is risky at times, and can cause us to have to make tough decisions.   

When fear drives us, we run from something and often right into mistakes. When love drives us, we run toward something that we feel convicted about.

To love like God calls us to love, and to love whom God loves, is not always convenient.

To love our city in a way that reflects our commitment and investment right here at home, that takes a significant faith. 

Let’s be sure that it’s love which guides us, and not fear.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.