“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has nothing to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18
This is one of those times I’m going to disagree with the Bible, and here’s why: we humans have a distorted view of love. Love is about personal preference and choice. Love is about sentimentality and emotion. Love is about sexual fantasy and romanticism. Love is soft and passive towards another. Love is never risking.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t cast out fear. If anything, it perpetuates it.
I think the biggest challenge I hear in people’s lives, both as a pastor and as a wrestling coach, is the concept of fear. We’re dominated by it as individuals and as a society. Fear has reached a state of paranoia in people’s lives, and it’s literally killing people. Fear of failure, fear you’re not good enough, fear of race, fear of GLBTQ folks, fear of the government, fear of institutions…you name it, you can probably find someone who will tell you to be afraid of it.
Love, at least love in the way we think about it, won’t cast out fear. I think the word we’re looking for is courage. It’s courage that casts out fear. Yet it’s not the type of courage that compels us to take control and micromanage our lives. That’s just fear manifesting itself in a new way.
Rather, courage is the ability to keep pushing in the face of fear. Keep pushing, keep moving, keep trying, keep living. I like to tell the wrestlers I coach, when it feels like you’re losing control and the fear of losing begins to set in, just focus on staying in position and how you’re going to score the next points…..just keep wrestling.
Fear causes us to quit. We quit and we point fingers of blame. We quit and withdraw. We quit and become self-fulfilling prophesies of failure. Courage is the ability to just keep living, one day at a time, and even one moment at a time if things are that hard. Courage is the ability to trust there are folks counting on you and folks that care about you…..you’re not alone.
Now maybe courage is the prefect love that John was writing about in the Bible. But in a time where the idea of love has become so distorted, I prefer the idea of courage. It just makes more sense.