14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. 15 If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. 16 We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. 17 This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen! 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.
The writer of 1 John has a deep belief that we can get it right. He trusted that when God’s Spirit is at work in us, we can be perfected – living as Jesus lived and loving as Jesus loves.
Our ancestor in the faith, John Wesley, believed the same. It is a very optimistic – some might say unrealistic – view of the possibilities of a human life. Most people have their doubts. During Wesley’s lifetime, his doctrine of “perfection” was widely criticized.
It would be ridiculous to believe humans can live in a state of perfect love, IF we believed that we were capable of reaching this perfection on our own. Of course, this is impossible. To even imagine it is perhaps dangerous.
But if we really trust God’s ability to transform the human soul, if we believe that the spiritual life is always about reaching beyond ourselves toward God, then what other aim can there be? What else would we aim for – mediocrity? Sometimes love? If you read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, it’s clear that Jesus lays out a standard of living and loving that is not just “good enough” but rather “perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
We don’t believe we can get there on our own. Instead, we trust God’s Spirit to help us love more and more perfectly, so that day by day our lives look more and more like Jesus.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Does it surprise you that 1 John talks about fear as the opposite of love? Can you think of examples where you see this truth at work in the world?
Where are some places in your life where you see fear crowding out love?