1 John 4:14-21 [NASB]
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Dear God, love, love, love. What does perfect love casting out fear look like? “Fear involves punishment.” “The one who fears is not perfected in love.”
Of course, the closest thing I can think of to “perfect love” from the human perspective is that of a parent and a child. I might get angry with a child. I might hate what they do. But I will ALWAYS love that child. There is something in my soul for them that keeps me coming back for more. I remember marveling at my daughter when she was on stage in different theater productions, and I also noticed how it didn’t matter what else was happening on that stage—my eyes followed her every move. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and what she was doing. It didn’t matter if she had the smallest bit part off to the side, that is where my eyes went. Of all of the people, kids and adults on that stage, she was mine and I was completely interested in everything she did.
But I have not loved her perfectly. I have made many mistakes. There have been times when I punished too harshly and times when I didn’t discipline enough. There have been times when I gave her too much as a parent and then there were other times when I withheld too much. I took out anger on her that was meant for someone else, and I didn’t show her anger that I should have. I made many, many mistakes, and the fact that I completely love her as much as I can wasn’t perfect enough. That is frustrating to me. Why couldn’t I have been better? Why do I still do the wrong thing sometimes?
Then there are the other people around me you have called me to love perfectly. Not just my wife, but my family of origin and my in-laws. My coworkers. The clients of the place where I work. Friends and fellow church members. My community. My country. What does perfect love look like for all of them?
Father, I think a lot of it starts, even with my daughter and son and graduating up to everyone else I’ve mentioned here, with loving you, accepting your love and forgiveness, and then trying to see each person around me with your eyes. Help me to see beyond the veneer and to look deeper. Help me to be patient. I know it’s grammatically incorrect, but help me to love more perfectly.
In Jesus’ name I pray,