It sounds so beautiful, so calm, so reassuring: “Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18
That is, until we realize that “casting out fear” is dangerous business. It’s certainly true that perfect love casts out fear, but part of that process is surfacing the fear hidden in us. God loves us so much he wants us to face our fears, and he will always stand with us.
When fear finds its way to the surface, we find ourselves shouting at Jesus, “We’re perishing! Don’t you care?” Fear urges Jesus, “Don’t stop for that woman, hurry along to my daughter—she’s dying!” Fear doesn’t want talk about lilies of the field or birds of the air; fear wants clothing, food, safety, or better yet cold hard cash. Fear speaks with an urgent voice, and only perfect love casts out fear.
Still other times fear walks a few steps behind, whispering “Why are we going to Jerusalem? We will die.” Fear directs our eyes to the crowds and the soldiers, the wind and the waves, the ledger and the purse, the hospital and the grave. Fear knows the insidious tone of voice; the feel of goose bumps down the arm; the single idea that triggers a thousand racing thoughts; even the smells of deep memories.
How Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
1. Perfect love strikes fear into the demonic.
Consider the story of the Gadarene demoniac. “Legion” is afraid of the abyss and searches for anywhere—anyplace to exist. Fear itself is afraid. It settles for some flesh, any flesh, where it can work its evil. Fear exists to torment anyone and anything. There’s nothing special about humanity: Swine will do. Just give us something to torment.
2. Perfect love exposes the lies we believe.
But here, exactly here, fear overplays its hand. It is no different than us—it is also afraid. Love flushes the quarry and sends it running zigzag for its own life. Love exposes the lie, brings the light, and fear dissolves. Love casts out Wormtongue and sends him back to Isengard.
3. Perfect love paves the way for peace.
First comes the casting out: the command, followed by a flurry of events. Then, suddenly, the world looks different. Fear gives way to peace, followed by impossible joy. It’s a narrow passage. Fear would have us roaming naked among the tombs. Love would have us seated with Jesus, clothed and sane. Fear demands that God himself should ignore the problems of others. Love suggests that nothing is final except itself. Fear cries out in despair. Love leads to faith.
We want the fear to be gone. So does our Master. His perfect love casts out fear. He takes our hand, faces the torment along with us, and says, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”