Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us… And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 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…
We love because he first loved us.
-I John 4:7-12, 16-19a
Ever been afraid? Yeah, me too. Just this past week, it felt like a great deal of our country was afraid as we watched with bated breath, wondering if war with Iran was imminent. Or perhaps you were among those who fear for animals and wildlife threatened by the fires burning across Australia. Maybe you’re afraid of what the impending winter storm might bring these next 48 hours.
Or it could be that you’re not focused on those large-scale fears, but on something closer to home. Fear of disease, fear of money problems, fear of change– these might be problems that affect fewer people but are no less frightening because they are closer to home.
So what do you do, when you are afraid? Cry? Ignore it? Go for a walk? Watch Netflix? Call a friend? Pray? Eat something delicious and greasy? Try to fix it? Go shopping? All of the above? There are about as many reactions to fear as there are people. Yet, no matter how differently we react, we have one thing in common: we all get afraid sometimes.
Sometimes, when we’re scared, we get tempted to withdraw and close in on ourselves. The world seems scary, and hiding away seems like the easiest way to cope. This is sometimes called denial, pretending that our problems aren’t really there. We can also give into fear by focusing only on our fear, giving it even more power over our lives.
Faith offers a different way. Instead of denying our fear or focusing in on it, faith dares us to love when we are afraid. Love, the Bible tells us, “drives out fear.” Love sends fear packing. Love evicts fear, then changes the locks for good measure.
When we dare to love in the face of fear, we live like Jesus Christ calls us– not because we’re so great, but because God has loved us so abundantly that love pours right out of us. When we love, even with an imperfect love, we take away fear’s power. When fear threatens, we rely on God’s love for us. “God is love,” the passage says, and so it is God who drives out fear and fills us with love–God’s own loving self–whenever we are afraid.
God, you are love. Fill me with your love. Drive out my fear. Let me dare to love whenever I feel afraid. In your name I pray, amen.