1 John may win the prize for the most quotable single letter in the New Testament. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:6); “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1:9); “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (2:1); “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (2:20); “No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (2:23); “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (3:2); “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (4:1); “We love, because he first loved us” (4:19); “everyone born of God overcomes the world” (5:4), are just a few of the often-quoted verses. You could almost read the letter as the “greatest hits” of pastoral maxims developed over a lifetime.
And among these quotable quotes is the simple phrase, “Perfect love drives out fear” (4:18). I have quoted this myself many times, and often heard it quoted. But it occurred to me recently to ask, for the first time, whose love? Love of what, or whom? And for that matter, fear of what, or whom? (more…)