There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

This is one of my favorite verses in all the bible. It carries so much. Without really thinking much about it, one can read this and simply say "God loves me. I shouldn't be afraid". The simple, obvious and childlike way to approach this verse is to close your eyes and feel the love of God. If you feel it, you can't also feel fear. Love is the answer to fear. Fear and Love cannot exist at the same time.

But the truths in this verse are far beyond feeling. No matter what you feel, you enter the place of knowing for certain that God loves you, is not mad at you, cannot be mad at you, and you cannot be punished or cursed or judged anymore. You can know the Truth, and He will set you free.

Perfect Love

Let's start with Perfect Love. We know that Perfect Love is a person.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

God is Love. He was always Love. He was love in the Old Testament and he is love in the New Testament. He doesn't have multiple natures. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Grace is also a person. Grace is the Love of God come down to save me. Grace is Jesus. His name literally means "God who saves". He is love. He is grace. He saves. While he is Perfect Love, he explains to us what the act of perfect love looks like:

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Perfect love is displayed on the cross.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

We were commanded to love God with all our mind, all our soul and all our strength. But we have not and could not. The sum total of the Law was meant to point at our inability to follow it. So Jesus loved God for us, with all his mind soul and strength. And on the cross, he loved us with all his mind, soul and strength. Love is never about us loving God first. All our love for God is nothing but a response to him loving us first.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

He did it while we were in our sin. While we were unable to do anything. We can only love much because we are forgiven much (Luke 7:47). All of "Christianity" is nothing but a response to the cross. All of "Faith" is just a response to his grace. All we do is give back because he gave first. We worship with the very breath he first gave us.

But you need to experience Perfect Love first. So keep reading.

Fear involves Punishment

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

Look at the above verse again. What does it mean when it says "fear involves torment"? Torment here means punishment. John is saying that the root of fear is a consciousness of punishment. Or judgment.

So many people, Christians especially, are so quick to conclude that God is punishing them, other people, or the world. They are so judgment conscious. I'm writing this in the midst of the COVID-19 calamity and again there's that beaten and dead horse being brought out – "God is judging the world because of its sin."

But how can they miss it? Perfect Love is exactly that – God judging Jesus for the sin of the World. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin
Isaiah 53:10

Fear has to do with punishment. But the gospel says the punishment was laid on Jesus. He who had no sin became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse (Galatians 3:13). All of the punishment for all of our sin was laid on Jesus. Not just for believers, but for all.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:2

It's prepaid credit. You still have to receive it. But there's no wrath left in heaven between now and the final judgement. God's heart is not in destruction. It is in loving. It is in saving. He's just and holy, but he came down and took the bullet. Punishment still happened. But it fell on Jesus.

Made Perfect in Love

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

There's a third part to this verse and it talks about being made perfect in love. The word perfect here doesn't mean flawless. It means whole. It means complete. Understanding how much God loves you and how it drove Jesus to the cross to receive all of your punishment– makes you complete.

I tell you it's such human nature when something bad happens to you to think God is punishing you. I have many personal stories like this and it set me free to learn that if I am in Christ, I will never see judgment. Not now, not later.

“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
Isaiah 54:9-10

Maybe you're a believer but come from a background that didn't teach the cross this way. I want to encourage you to look into the verses I posted, look up the things I am saying. It's true. And that's good news for you. You know love but have not been made perfect in love. That's why you still fear. God is smiling at you, you are the joy set before him. Jesus was judged on your behalf.

Maybe you've never heard any of this before. Never put your faith in Jesus. I'm telling you it's great news. He did it all. You can lay your guilty conscience to rest, and your fearful heart. Say "Jesus I let you take the blame for me, take the punishment for me, my guilt, my sin, my curse, take it all. I know you already paid for it 2000 years ago but it takes two to trade places. You took my place and now I take yours. I receive it today– your forgiveness, your righteousness, your blessing. You are my Lord. I am yours." Please reach out to me if you do.