Human beings are no good at perfect love. Sure, you say you love someone with a deep, rich love reserved for no one else. You say you’ll never love someone the way you love your friend, your spouse, or a family member. But that love comes with some outs, a backstop, if you will.
This is seen in how wedding vows are sometimes worded. Some couples put conditions on their vows. Instead of “Till death us do part” you have “Until our time together is over” or “Until our love for each other runs out.” The marriage is already doomed to fail. Add a pre-nuptial agreement and the count is up to two strikes.
Human love for another human has built-in fear. Love for God also has fear. You fear that God will remove His tender Hand from you when you do something wrong. You fear that God doesn’t really love you, that you are outside His providence and His salvation. You worry that you don’t love God enough, and in turn that you don’t love your neighbor like yourself, let alone love your neighbor at all.
Saint John puts an end to fear in love when he writes whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Consider the last phrase first, especially the last clause, perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love is what you seek. Perfect love is impossible when sought outside the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. That’s the mystery the world seeks. Even Christians seek this mystery while not realizing it’s under their nose.
The quest for perfect love ends in Jesus Christ, Who is perfect love in the flesh. Our Father in heaven loved you first. He sent His Son as the propitiation, the perfect sin offering, for your sins. The Holy Spirit teaches you to recognize His love. Every physical blessing and every spiritual gift is proof of His love for you. As you recognize His love for you, you also cling to His love and grace by trusting in His promise of perfect love given to you. He displays His perfect love for you and for all in His innocent suffering and death. He gives you the benefits of His death in His holy Gifts, especially the Gift of His holy preached Word. God abides in you, and you abide in God. You shall not die, but live.
Now to that first phrase, whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. Love toward God is never perfect this side of Paradise. God’s love toward you in Christ is your perfect love. As you cling to Christ and His perfect love, our Father in heaven now sees Christ’s perfect righteousness that covers you as perfect love. Your pleasure and joy is now in God and His Word. As a New Creation you surrender your live to God for service. You love what He commands and suffer everything for His sake. The struggle between the Old Man’s hatred of God’s perfect love for you and the New Creation’s love of everything God has done for you will persist until you fall asleep in Jesus, awaiting the day of resurrection when you will rise from the grave a completed New Creation and live with the Lord God forever in His kingdom.
You abide in God, and God abides in you, as you rejoice in His Gifts of forgiveness and life. By this, John writes, 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. You abide in God as you hear His proclamation of redemption and resurrection. You abide in God as you live in your Baptismal grace, dying daily to sin and rising daily to life in Jesus Christ. You abide in God as you eat and drink His true Body and true Blood in the Supper. You abide in God as your sins are absolved. You abide in God as you leave His house with His Name on you, loving your brethren as He loves you. Loving your neighbor shows to the world you are God’s precious child and that God dwells among you.
Don’t be afraid. Jesus Christ is perfect love. His perfect love and perfect righteousness covers you. You are free. You are forgiven. You are loved. As you are loved, you then are free to love and serve your neighbor wherever God puts you. There are no limits, for God abides in you and you abide in Him. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.