This letter from John, one of the first followers of Jesus, has dealt with some hard Christian spiritual truth. It has, so far, challenged us in a direct way about our priorities. Do we went to be people who follow the narrow and demanding path of life in which, following Jesus will lead us, or do we want the vain glories of this passing world that is offered by satan’s rule? A tough decision to make, and yet John has good reason to encourage us to choose the former:

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. 1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

On Saturday night we went to support our friends in Sheffield in their local Pantomime production. It brought back all kinds of memories for me of when I used to be in Pantomimes as a child and youth. One of the favorite songs of many productions went like this, ‘Whenever I feel afraid I hold my head errect, and whistle a happy tune then no-one will suspect, I’m afraid.’ Unless we know that we are safe on our sofa watching a chilling movie, safely fastened into the latest ride at a theme park, or doing extreme sports for ‘fun’, fear isn’t something we relish. Being made afraid by circumstances outside our control or painful decisions that challenge our security rightly unsettle and unnerve us. Yet here, and constantly in the gospels, we are encouraged to see that, if we live in the love of God, we have nothing to fear. In fact, when we experience living in the love of God any fear of judgement, death,  failure, loss of self-identity, or crisis of faith, is driven out by perfect love. The reality of living in a relationship with God that isn’t dependant on our own goodness or power but on Jesus’ sacrificial love for us is empowering. John says, ‘Our standing in the world is identical to Christ’s’. What an assurance of God’s love for us, that he sees us and loves us in exactly the same way he sees and loves his only ‘God-born’ Son. This God, who is perfect love, perfectly loves us as he perfectly loves his son. What an encouragement to make the hard choices and take the narrow way. What more could we want for today, tomorrow, and eternity than to be loved perfectly by God?

God who is perfect love thank you for loving me perfectly. Help me to see in my inner life your love as the key to be free from all fear. Let the love you give through living within my life aid me in the choice to follow you in the narrow path and the hard decisions of life. Amen.

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