(The following is the November 24 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read 1 John 4 and pay close attention to verses 16-19.)
Can you think of someone you fear or used to fear? It may be an authority figure, acquaintance, or someone perceived as a threat. Why did you fear that person? Is it true in your case that relationships characterized by fear suffer from a lack of trust and love?
John wrote about the connection between love and fear: “God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. We love because he first loved us” (vv. 16-19).
The believer’s relationship with God should be one of love and complete trust, not fear. While the Bible says to fear God, that is about giving God the awe and respect he is due. As his children, we don’t cower in fear of punishment before him because Jesus took our punishment. Believers need not fear eternal condemnation (Rom. 8:1). God will pour out wrath on his enemies, but believers aren’t among them.
Because we experience perfect love from God, we can strive to love others similarly. We can be trustworthy and kind, seeking to love and build up others rather than criticize and punish, which only breeds fear. Developing healthy relationships with people takes time. We must earn trust through consistent behavior over time. Our amazing God has shown us such love, and his perfect love has cast out fear from our relationship with him. May we work to create similar loving relationships with others as image-bearers of God.
What relationships do you have where you fear someone, or they fear you? What steps can you take to change the nature of a relationship to one of love?