By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for 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. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:17-18
The word “perfected” in verses 17 and 18 means “whole, to bring to completion, to accomplish, to finish.” It basically means, “to carry out something to the end.” For example, when you complete a task or accomplish a goal, it is said to be “perfected.” It doesn’t mean that what was imperfect has become flawless. Jesus used a form of the word “perfect” on the cross when he said, “It is finished.” With these words he declared that he had successfully carried out the the plan he had been sent to accomplish. It does not mean that Jesus took the imperfect work of God and made it perfect. It means that he took the mission of God, turned it into action, and so completed it. That’s the kind of love John is talking about – a love that is visibly demonstrated and finds its source in a vibrant relationship with God (1 John 4:16).
In one sense God’s love is already perfect – it cannot be added to or improved upon. And yet, to use the definition above, it is made perfect because it “makes whole, brings to completion, accomplishes, and finishes” its ultimate task and purpose – to herald the testimony of God’s love to the world.
As children of God, we inherit the mission of perfecting the love of God in the world. What does this look like? Perfected love moves beyond merely talking about the need to share Christ. Perfected love boldly declares God’s love to the world. It’s more than talking compassionately about the hungry – it’s actually feeding them. It’s more than saying you love others – it’s actually showing them love. That kind of love, John says promotes “confidence, freedom, boldness, and a clear conscience in the day of judgment.”
The reason accomplishing love gives confidence for the Day of Judgment is that it shows that by grace we belong to Christ.We don’t gain confidence because we are sinless and perfect in the way we love. The truth of Christian living is not found in our feeble efforts to imitate Jesus or strictly follow His commands; it is recognizing Christ’ work in us to do of His good pleasure. It is Christ living in me. Therefore whatever I do, it is He that is doing it.
Now you can see what confidence this gives in the Day of Judgment. If he is going to look at my life and see the activity of Himself in me, then he will not deny himself at the Day of Judgment. If Christ is my source of life, then I am wholly acceptable to Him, and therefore I can have confidence in His presence.
When you love others with love that is more than just talk, when the love of God reaches its practical goal of action in your life, you will experience a deep and unshakable confidence before God. All talk and no action destroys assurance. Put your money where our mouth is, or put our time where our tongue is, then you experience the reality of faith. Then you will feel confident for the day of judgment, because then you are acting the way Jesus acted.
Let me make something perfectly clear. Confidence in the Day of Judgment comes not from my works of love as meritorious acts. It comes from abiding in Christ. Christ is my only hope of salvation. And in order for me to be confident that I am abiding in Christ, there must be the evidence of the maturing work of love in my life. Then the work of Love becomes my confidence.
But according to verse 18, love , not only provides confidence for the future Judgment, it also gives us freedom from fear today. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Love is the antidote to the problems of fear and anxiety. John is not talking about a perfect kind of love; it is not the perfection of our love but the direction of our love. Love directs us towards others, accomplishes its purpose, and will cast out fears. In other words, the reason there is no fear in love is that there is no threat of punishment for being a loving person. When you love someone with real practical deeds, your conscience never tells you, “You’re going to get punished for this.” Love is never threatened with punishment. On the contrary, when you love others with “the love of God overflowing and being completed in deed and action” it eradicates fear! The way to boldness, confidence, and fearlessness is to walk in love. Love is perfected not when it is done perfectly all the time, but when it passes from the lips to the deed. God’s love that governs our hearts will produce fearlessness.
What are you afraid of? If you know God (who is love) personally, trust him, and walk in his love, fear will dissipate and love will flourish.