Author: Rachel Kidd
What is perfect love?
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18 NIV
We know that God is love and that He is perfect. But what does it mean to love perfectly? John tells us here that love not only is the absence of fear, but that love actively pushes out fear. To love is not to intimidate with threats of retribution, rather it is peaceful and harmonious.
Fear has no place in perfect love, no matter the intention.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NIV
Despite His hatred for sin, Jesus demonstrated perfect love by dying for us in the most horrific way. Crucifixion was a horrific way to die, agonizingly slow and painful, designed to be a warning to dissuade other criminals. Yet, Jesus, the only perfect man to ever live, who was fully God and fully man, chose to die for us sinners on the cross. This act can only be described as perfect love, a divine act of grace for a people so wholly undeserving.
Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
In a competitive world, it can be hard to imagine relationships with others without competition, arrogance, or rudeness. We see it all the time, from road rage to yelling at a waitress for a mistake in an order. But, what if we chose to live with love in mind? What would the world look like if we were kind to each other, humble, patient, and long-suffering? I can imagine that it would be a world much like heaven.
How can we show that love to others?
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34 NIV
I have two younger brothers, the middle is 2 ½ years younger and the littlest is 7 ½ years younger than me. I was the de-facto babysitter and the responsible party in all matters of disagreements and shenanigans. With two hyperactive and intelligent brothers, you can imagine the scrapes we managed to find ourselves in, from kitchen concoctions gone wrong to broken heirlooms.
To be honest, I found it really difficult to love my brothers for most of my childhood. I just wanted to go out without being asked “where’s your brother?” or “go find your brother.” I didn’t want to chase a little boy in circles around my middle school or crawl through round racks of clothes in a department store, searching for the missing toddler (both true stories). It began to be a matter of resentment, an anger I carried for many years. Of course, it’s in our nature to feel anger- in fact, Jesus Himself felt angry (Mark 3:5). But, the issue lies in what we do with that anger.
Anger and fear go hand in hand. And we know that fear has no place in perfect love. In the same way, anger that causes fractures in relationships is far from the vision God has for the love we show our brothers and sisters. The resentment I carried did not foster a loving relationship with either of my brothers, it created a dividing wall between us, eroding the closeness we once shared.
Once I realized that this anger was preventing a relationship with my brothers, I had to take a step back and evaluate. I needed to spend time in prayer and reflection to process my resentment. It took time, grace, patience, and God’s intervention, but my anger began to dissolve. I realized that my parents were doing the best they knew how, that my brother’s never intentionally tried to take anything from me or my childhood, and that my whole family loves me.
In order for me to begin to show love for my brothers that even resembles the perfect love of Jesus, I first had to work through my anger. God allowed me to process those childhood feelings in order to rebuild those relationships, making them more perfect in His grace. And that is the key element of perfect love; an absence of anger and an abundance of God’s grace. Without both, love cannot be perfected.