PEACE IN A WORLD OF FEAR

PEACE IN A WORLD OF FEAR

1st John 4:18

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

We live in a world of fear. The uncertainty of life, the alarming and rapid manner in which our circumstances can change, the frailty of the human body, the vast number of ways in which both we and our loved ones can be taken out of this world at any moment, are facts that feed our fears.

The ultimate fear relates to dying and to death itself. We do not know how or when we will die but we are painfully aware that his dark shadow stalks our life from day to day and that each moment is drawing closer to the hour when he will will envelope and consume our earthly life.

The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn this fear of death out of the population and has brought it to the surface. When the British Prime Minister, Mr Johnston, solemnly told us that some of our loved ones would die before their time he was invoking the ultimate tactic in the war against the virus. And the British people afraid for themselves and their loved ones stayed indoors and complied.

One hundred years ago people, while afraid of death lived with it. There were more diseases which proved fatal and there were more infectious diseases in society, as there were fewer vaccines and drugs. More people died at home with their loved ones gathered around. A much larger number of children died at birth and sadly too many women died during labour. There was an earthy realism with regard to death.

In the modern world life expectancy has risen dramatically with the advances in medicine. Drugs, surgical procedures and infection preventions have saved numerous lives. The outcomes for illnesses like cancer and heart disease have improved dramatically in the last twenty years. Health and Safety regulations have prevented many fatalities in the work place and on the roads. We have ,therefore, become very good at shutting away and ignoring our greatest enemy.

But still he comes, more silently, but still his shadow lurks at every corner. We appreciate the advances in health care but have we not become complacent where the reality if death is concerned? Some even choose to live as if they will never die!

Covid-19, this incurable virus without a vaccine, which has swept the world at alarming speed, has reawakened this slumbering fear of death, and has been quite a wake up call. In fact the wake up call has been more of a trumpet blast and has shook the confidence of society to the core. It will take many people a lot of time to adjust to social situations post Covid-19.

Yes – we should be afraid of this illness, its consequences can be catastrophic and due care ought to be exercised.

BUT looking into the future we don’t want to be controlled or manipulated by our fears. Controlled by fear can have all kinds of terrible consequences for men and women.

How can face fear in this world, especially the fear of death and know perfect peace? It is this fear of death which is all pervasive subject – this fear is with us with or without Covid-19. Most of us will not die from Covid-19 but we all will die sometime, somewhere and in some manner.

This is where the Gospel, the great message of Christianity, is so helpful. This is the only message which supplies us with true peace in a fear filled world because Saint John wrote “perfect love casteth out all fear”.

LOVE WITHOUT FEAR

According to the Holy Spirit inspired words of Saint John, the antidote for fear is perfect love. Therefore, where this perfect love exists, there is no fear. This is the message and the realisation that our society needs as we move out of lockdown. As we shop, go into the workplace, meet our relatives and attend church we must be filled with this perfect love which promises to conquer all of our fears, especially the fear of death.

John in this passage spends some time defining this perfect love.

The Greek word employed for love is ἀγαπάω (agapao), which is a uniquely Christian term. Throughout the New Testament this is the only used to describe the love which is of God and is set apart from all forms of human tenderness and emotion. Therefore ἀγαπάω is the most complete form of love, this is perfect love.

Therefore John wrote in verse 7 “love is of God” and in verse 8 “God is love”. When a person becomes a Christian, therefore, God plants His love in the human heart and only the Christian enjoys such an experience:

“every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (v7).

By faith the Christian grows in the grace and assurance of this love that has been born in the soul at the new birth. We do this by appreciating what this love of God actually is. As we learn the contents of this love we will learn to love others with the love of God.

This perfect love of God is unconditional and sacrificial:

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (V10).

Such is our sinfulness that the love between man and God is not mutual. By nature man dislikes God, resists and rebels against Him not wishing to be held accountable. But God chooses to love the unloveable for reasons found only within His nature of infinite love.

But this love of God also acts because true love must sacrifice and give. But no greater love sacrifice was ever made than this. God gave his Son to be our sin offering, to appease his justice through the shedding of precious blood.

Such love is deeply humbling because it is so undeserving.

It is also teaches us how we should live and act as those people who enjoy the love of God born in the soul. We too should forgive and sacrifice. Such perfect love has the capacity to heal broken homes, mend broken hearts and piece together the fractures in society.

But – within the context of this subject perfect love casts out every fear. The verb “to cast out” is particularly powerful. It literally means to put outside the house, to turn outdoors. In John 9:34-35 it is used of the man who was put out of the temple.

The fear of death is something which lives within the human heart. It is a powerful fear, an all consuming fear. But perfect love can and will drive it away. Only this perfect love can conquer our fears.

The power of perfect love to conquer our fears is found in the healing power of Christ’s blood. Knowing God’s forgiveness is experiencing His love presented and purchased on Calvary. This is peace for a fearful world. This is certainty for an uncertain world. And this is life for a dying world. This Saviour not only died but was resurrected. The resurrected life of Christ planted in the soul of mankind promises to drive away and banish every fear.

The perfect love teaches us to trust. That if God loves me so much that He gave His Son for me, then He will look after me, He will care for me – His way will always be perfect. This sweet reassurance inspires the Christian heart with confidence and courage – God loves me and His love is within me.

George Matheson was a Victorian Clergyman. As a young man he was diagnosed with permanent and incurable loss of sight. The cruellest blow of all took place when his Fiancee broke off their engagement on account of his disability. After this he grew very close to his sister who was a great help and comfort. Eventually she was married and he was left alone. On the night of her wedding he reflected on his condition, which in the eyes of the world was not at all promising. Alone in the world with no prospect of marriage and suffering from blindness. Words came to his mind and he recorded them quickly and they have been an inspiration to millions ever since:

“O Love that will not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

That in thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,

I yield my flickering torch to thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day

May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain,

That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.”

It is the realisation that God gives, that He keeps and satisfies, that His love pursues and keeps us through all the experiences of life that drives away every fear.

The Gospel alone can supply our needs and those of our society in these times.

Let us today pray for love without fear.

FEAR WITHOUT LOVE

Those who are without this perfect love, however, are left in a most difficult situation; fear without love:

“fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The word torment relates a horribly painful experience. The word actually means punishment. Fear punishes, it whips, it afflicts – it is a most cruel master.

The fear of death is like this because death opens up the reality of eternity. Without the living vibrant experience of the love of God eternity holds nothing but banishment and pain in outer darkness forever. The word is not inappropriate because when our Lord spoke of Hell he described the weeping, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Mankind has eternity in his heart, being not confined to flesh and blood he will live long and consciously beyond the grave. To deny spirituality is to deny humanity. To admit to spirituality is to admit eternity. Fear of death is the reaction of a spiritual creature facing death and eternity without love and, therefore, without hope.

In every situation men and women require hope. Hope is the fuel that keeps the human spirit alive. The greatest problem is a hopeless situation. Hopelessness has led many a person to take desperate actions or quite simply to give up completely. In almost every circumstance there is always some ground for hope and the human spirit can be very resourceful in finding these crumbs of comfort.

But where death and eternity is concerned, however, there is no hope apart from the love of a God. To be without this love is to be in perpetual torment. Every day is one of tragedy and sadness – no hope.

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Oh! can it, can it be?

Like a ship without a rudder,

On a wild and stormy sea!

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Lonely and dark the way;

With no light, no hope in Jesus,

Making bright the cheerless day.

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

No help nor refuge nigh;

How can you, my friend and brother,

Dare to life or dare to die?

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Dark will the voyage be;

Clouds will gather, storms surround you,

Oh, to Christ for refuge flee!

Out of Christ, without a Saviour,

Give to Him now your heart,

Ere the door of mercy closes,

And you hear His word, “depart.”

But there is hope as the last verse of this hymn by Frank Davis teaches – “Give to him now your heart”. The real difference between the Christian the person who is not a Christian is the attitude to death and dying. The Christian always faces death with hope because of this perfect love.

The opportunity to receive this perfect love is limited, however. Limited by time and by life itself. If you are reading these words and you are without the conscious happy experience of the love of God, seek the Lord for mercy and discover peace which conquers every fear.

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