17 In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
Verse 17 tells us how to have something everybody wants to have. And v.18 tells us how to get rid of something everybody wants to get rid of. We, of course, do not like to talk about fear. We do everything we can to be free from it. Yet fear is an essential part of human existence and, like it or not, some fear will accompany us, always and everywhere, until the end.
Paul Tillich, in The Courage to Be, writes about the triple nature of human fear or anxiety. Three existential fears, he writes, accompany life:
- Fear or alarm of death
- Fear or alarm of emptiness of life and its meaninglessness
- Fear of guilt and condemnation
If Tillich is right, how does our faith in Christ address these fears?
Of all our fears, to most, death is the most frightening. Nobody wants to die; nobody wants even to think about death. One way to avoid thinking about death is through positive language. No one ever dies anymore; instead, one simply “passes away.” Death is made to sound like a pleasant little trip. If you think about the language we use, you’ll be able to come up with many euphemisms for aging, infirmity, and death. The manifold ways in which death is disguised or ignored sometimes constitute a virtual denial of death, which in itself reveals our fear of death. However, all those ways to avoid thinking about death do not obscure its reality and tragedy. Death is death; and—regardless of whatever ways we attempt to mask it—its reality, and the fear that reality brings, will always be with us.
People want to make their lives meaningful. Some see the purpose of their lives in their careers, raising children, gaining wealth, becoming popular, or maybe in doing scientific research. Others find the meaning of life through the very process of searching for the meaning of life. But what does life mean if everything inevitably finishes with death?
Everybody knows how painful guilt and condemnation can be. They can deprive you of internal peace and harmony. Guilt can cause both mental and physical damage. Who has not struggled, to some degree, with guilt and fear?
The question remains, then: how does our faith in Christ address these fears? Or put another way, does your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior give you some measure of relief from the fears because you find meaning in following Jesus; meaning that frees you from guilt and condemnation; meaning that is the source of Hope for this life and the one to come.
Something to consider on this Wednesday morning.