Last Sunday, on Easter Sunday, I approached things from a little different perspective than the normal Easter message (at least I suppose it was not the usual approach). I didn’t focus specifically on the cross or the resurrection, but I focused in on a passage from 1 John 4:14-16.
Many will know John is the beloved disciple. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, even in his life on earth. But being also fully human, he approached life as we would, having a closer circle of friends, though he was ultimately pouring into their lives and teaching them the ways of the Father. We know there was the twelve. But there was also the closer connection with Peter, James and John. And then, within that three, you might say John was the closest friend Jesus had as a human being (at least as John presents it, and I trust John’s testimony).
And so, we read some intimate passages from the pen of John (and some extremely apocalyptic-prophetic visions in Revelation as well). One very intimate portion is found in his first epistle. He writes like a father to his children. It’s quite beautiful.
So, as we move through the text of 1 John, we get to ch. 4. That’s where I have been for about 2 weeks now. I haven’t read much else (outside of John’s Gospel). Specifically, I have been soaking up the reality of 4:14-18.
You know, there are times God draws you into specific passages. I wasn’t even planning to read 1 John. I actually was having a conversation with my wife over some of the selfish things in me and how I had expressed it to her and our son. And, lo and behold, God brings up the verse about perfect love casting out fear. It was really out of nowhere.
All of a sudden, a light, a light of revelation, was turned on inside me with regards to how much fear dictates our lives. Not just fear of judgment, though that is the direct context of John’s words in 4:17-18. But fear dictates a lot of things – why we always want to be in control, and get angry when we are not in control; our insecurities before other people; and there are others. Those are two starters for me.
But here I am – Drinking in, or trying to drink in, the reality that John said we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us (4:16).
Of course, this starts with an intellectual knowledge in our brains. John speaks of a confession in vs15 (though I believe confession is beyond simply the intellect). But the words know and believe, in John’s context, and in a lot of the biblical context, are experiential words. John is trying to let these people know that he has seen, touched and listened to the Son, the word of life (1:1). And so, he can truly tell them that they (John and most likely the other apostles in the beginning) KNOW and BELIEVE the love God has for them. We heard and saw and touched love in the flesh. Beautiful!
And this love radically changed his and their lives. The true love of God.
John can only think to identify this love as perfect love. And this perfect love has power. To live in, or abide in, this perfect love of God brings us to a place of confidence where judgment is no longer our destiny. This perfect love, as I mentioned, also casts out fear. It is powerful enough to demolish the stronghold of fear, and all other bondage-gripping sins. Some of those sins are more outward. But, like peeling back the layers of an onion, the perfect love of God comes in and deals with deeper things. And when that happens, we will be surprised how outward actions, behaviour, starts lining up as well.
For those who live in fear, well, John lets us know we are not being perfected in love. We have some steps, by the generous grace of God, to make in drinking more from the cup of God’s perfect love. It’s worth it. And don’t be surprised if, when you drink, you follow-up with deep weeping, or overflowing thankfulness, or shout-out-loud excitement and praise.
Right now, I am dearly indebted to these words of John. But even more, I am dearly indebted to God for highlighting them to me recently. The two-edged sword pierced deep. And I find myself wanting to continue in drinking from this cup of perfect love.