Last week in Relationship Tuesday we began to talk about the fear of the Lord. This is the starting point for a relationship with God. Without a proper fear of the Lord, we can’t understand all the complexities of the relationship He wants to have with us. And this is a real fear, not simply awe and respect, though those are important. Everyone who’s come in contact with this God who’s offering us relationship has hit the dust in sheer terror, even John the beloved disciple.
John and Jesus were tight. John even rested his head on Jesus’ chest at the last supper. There are very few people I would let cuddle up with me like that, and all of them are family, namely my wife, my son, and my little sisters, though they’ve stopped doing that so much now that they’ve grown up. If any of my guy friends said, “hey let me rest my head on your chest”, I’d probably laugh and punch them in the mouth.
Seriously though, John and Jesus were close, and to be fair John was probably a teenager at this point, just a boy, so it’s not so weird as all that. Jesus was like his father or older brother, and John loved Him.
Everything John writes is about love, but we also read that he was a bit surly. Jesus calls him and his brother “Sons of Thunder”. They sound like a professional wrestling tag team group.
They’re the ones who ask if they can call down fire and consume people. They’re the ones who ask if it’s time to go to war with Rome and bring the kingdom. They’re the ones whose mother asks if they can’t sit on Jesus’ right and left in the kingdom. John was the only disciple that went and stood at the crucifixion even though it meant he would be seen as a disciple and could have been arrested and killed too. There were two things you can be sure of when reading the Bible: John the apostle loved Jesus, and he was fearless.
And yet, when John stands face to face with the glorified Christ in Revelations 1:17, he “fell at His feet as though dead.” And like every human being who ever has had contact with God since Adam’s fall, Jesus has to reach down and say, “do not be afraid.”
So, why then does this same John, who turns into a quivering pile of Jell-O at the sight of the glorified Jesus, write, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)?
If that small phrase were all John wrote, then it would seem strange. But most people who use that phrase to suggest we ought not be afraid of God anymore, don’t quote everything John wrote here: “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. 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.” (1 John 4:17-18)
John is talking about being afraid of the Day of Judgment and being afraid of punishment. In that respect, if His love is perfected in us, we do have no reason to be afraid of God’s punishment. There is no punishment for those who know God and are known by Him.
However, not being afraid of being punished does not preclude that we have no more reason to fear God. In fact if punishment is the only reason you’re afraid of God, you don’t know Him.
We fear Him for the same reason we serve Him--because of who He is not what He can do to us or for us.
Next Week: The Fear of Claymen