“He that feareth is not made perfect in love” – John 4:18d
According to John, a relationship exists between love and hate, but I never saw it. Until I heard a sermon. Evidently, I actually listened for once. The crux: hate is not the opposite of love, fear is.
Crazy, I know. But according to the Apostle John, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Since John was “the disciple Jesus loved,” and he writes more about the subject of love than any other Biblical author, I will trust he is something of an authority on the subject. After all, God inspired those words about love John penned.
How can fear be the opposite of love? The key to this dilemma rests in the definition of love. If I say that love is a strong feeling I have for another person, then the opposite of love would be the opposite strong feeling for a person.
Love, however, is not a feeling. Nor is it an emotion. Love is an action. “This is love, that we walk after his commandments” (2 John 6a). Last time I checked, walking wasn’t a feeling or an emotion.
Let’s consider fear for a moment. What sort of actions does fear evoke in us? Fear can paralyze us, or cause us to run away or even allow us to compromise what we thought we believed in. In this way, fear is the opposite of love.
Fear will paralyze us. Don’t you hate those movies where the bad guy is coming after someone with a gun or knife and they just stand there? That’s fear in action. In the same scenario, the hero saves the day by dragging the paralyzed one out of danger. He has demonstrated love.
Still sound too vague? Let’s put your child in front of a truck speeding down the road. You will not be frozen. In fact, you will run faster than ever to protect your little one from harm. This is love. Should you have been afraid? The truck is coming for you, so unless you have a death wish, you should feel terrified. Your love for your child, however, is stronger than any fear you might feel.
What about the type of fear that causes us to run away? Is love the opposite of that sort of fear?
Have you ever stood beside a friend with a bully and his pack of dogs challenging you? Sure, you tried to talk your way out of the situation, but the bully was intent on knocking your friend’s head off. When you chose to take the beating rather than desert your friend, you chose love over fear.
In the same way light dispels darkness, love dispels fear. When love is in the room, fear must go hide in the corner.
Clearly, the fear that causes us to compromise what we say we believe is the opposite of love. This is demonstrated by the martyrs of the Christian faith who chose to be burned alive rather than recanting their Savior. Their love for Christ was stronger than their fear of death.
“Fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18c) and the torment caused by the flame was fleeting because the torment of recanting Christ to preserve the flesh would have been much worse – a lifetime of regret.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. “- Dale Carnegie