‘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. We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:18,19 NRSV).
Love is more powerful than fear because, no matter how destructive it might seem, fear is only a phantom – and LOVE IS A PERSON, a real Person.
Over Christmas my wife broke her ankle. She has been forced to endure long periods of sitting. To give herself something to do over that time, she got busy digitalising her father’s slide collection. Once she had finished with that, she began working on my father’s old slides, which had been sitting in a corner for several years.
Her work on these slides has caused me to revisit my childhood and youth. It has confronted me with memories I had either forgotten or suppressed. When I see the pictures, I can remember just what I was feeling at the time. We moved too often for me to learn how to get close to people and relax with them. While I remained relatively well adjusted, I was somewhat lonely, shy and afraid. I hid my insecurities as best I could by keeping out of trouble. Seeing my expression in those old photos brings it flooding back.
Fear is a constant companion we know all too well. It lurks in dark places, pounces when our guard is down, feeds on our doubts and erodes our confidence when we most need it. Fear robs us of joy and paints life in dark, horrible hues.
To give in to fear is to give up on God.
Our joy as Christians is that God has provided the antidote to all fear. He has poured out on us his love, specifically his love in Jesus Christ. Love is more powerful than fear because, no matter how destructive it might seem, fear is only a phantom and love is a Person – a real Person. Relationships are the most powerful and transformative influence in life, and Christ is God’s personal saving relationship with us.
For more than four years now the LCA has used the tagline Where love comes to life. We are gradually coming to appreciate and act by this tagline. At first some people criticised it as being too human-centred, as though love comes to life by what we do. If Lutherans know anything, it is that we are sinners and our love is imperfect at best. We must always look to God’s love, not ours.
Now, some years on, the theme is beginning to mature and we are seeing how true it is. God’s love brings life and we are its ambassadors. Like all ambassadors, we carry the message but we ourselves are not the message. The message of God’s love, then, is carried in our actions and words as individuals and as church. His message has always been – and always will be – our mission to the world.