If you know anything about me, I’m about the least aggressive person on the planet. But when I was in PreK, something came over me when I got cut off in line for recess. I asked the person who cut in front of me to get back in line, and when she refused, I got so mad I punched her. A little overdramatic, but hey! I was 4. But I immediately got hit with a wave of guilt and wondered what on earth my parents would do when they found out. When I finally told them (or more likely my teacher did), they did not get mad, but rather sat me down and talked through my emotions and why I felt that was the right thing to do.
This was such a revolutionary thing for me. I had been nervous for days, wondering how severe my punishment was going to be. My parents, while unhappy with what I did, chose in that moment that it was more important for them to be heard genuinely rather than be afraid of them or a punishment.
That instance was really formative on how I viewed the relationship between love and fear. And, thankfully, Scripture does not leave this dynamic duo unexplained, either. In 1 John, the author states “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who feats in not made perfect in love.”
Let’s take a minute to unpack that. So we know that being in a relationship with the Lord requires two way communication: us to God and God to us. When coming into a relationship with the Lord, He tells us that we are forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus. However, that requires us to proclaim our dependence on Him through Jesus’ work on the cross. Therefore, when coming to belief in the Lord, we admit a dependence on Him. This is not a sign of weakness, but a surrendering to the idea that there is someone bigger than ourselves who wants to love His creation, so we place Him as the one we look to for help.
Both parties act in love in this scenario. On a much smaller scale, our family dynamic functions in a similar way. Our parents love us so, and in their attempt to model the love of Christ, they ask to be role models in our lives that can love us, answer questions, and support us as we grow into who we have been made to be.
Therefore, we do not listen to our parents or to God because we are scared of what will happen if we don’t listen to either, but we listen to them because they demonstrate good and perfect love. Neither are attempting to elicit fear by holding this place of authority in our lives, but are rather trying to love you deeply and help you see this love, mercy, and forgiveness that exists in this relationship.
So who do we look up to then? Who can we trust to answer our questions as we navigate who we are and what is right and wrong? Scripture tells us that the Lord, our parents, and anyone who speaks this truth into our lives out of the motivation of love can. These parties can answer questions, hear your thoughts, and want to help you see the Lord because of His great love.
And will we mess up sometimes? Of course! We’re all learning. Fear of the Lord is good, but that does not mean we posture ourselves to be scared of God. He will always forgive, and while a lesson or two might accompany our mistakes. So I encourage all of us to look to those important people in our lives to learn and to not fear. – Katie Hufnagle
Journal Guide: Take some time to get alone today and take about 15-20 minutes to journal through these questions. Journaling is a way we pray to God, so see what God might be telling you.
1. What is usually your first thought when you realize you did something wrong?
2. What is your relationship with love, fear, and authority?
3. Who are some people you feel like you can trust to speak into your life?
4. Take some time to write a prayer to God.
Conversation Guide: Ask three questions to your siblings and parents. We think doing it over the dinner table or right after dinner is a great time to do it.
1. What are ways perfect love casts out fear?
2. How can we live into the family dynamic as found in Scripture?
3. What are important things I feel comfortable having my parents speak into right now?
Prayer: Read 1 John 4 and then read this prayer by yourself:
Dear God, thank you that you have given us the capacity to live into love. You demonstrated and continue to demonstrate perfect love every day. Help me to see that having this relationship with you gives me life and helps me to better understand my parents, how you have made me, and the world around me. Even when I do mess up, help me to see that you are working all things out for good and that you can and do use hard things for your glory. Open my heart to allow you and others to speak truth into my life. Thank you for your never changing love and for the people who love me as you first loved us. I love you. Amen.