Principles for living in love and faith – Love casts out fear

by Julie Barringer
3rd October 2021

1 John 4 v7-21

At Messy church and family services, we used to sing a song called “Sometimes I feel afraid”.
The lyrics go like this:

Sometimes I feel afraid of getting things all wrong
Of people who will tease me when they see the things I’ve done
Sometimes I feel afraid of being on my own
With no one here to play with me I’ll always be alone
Sometimes I feel afraid of things I cannot see
Of monsters in the dark who might be chasing after me
Then each verse finishes: But then I remember there’s no need to be afraid….

Have you noticed that none of the things listed here are physical things? We might be afraid of spiders, mice, rats, birds, snakes – the options are endless but those invisible, hidden fears such as what will people think of me or what if I do the wrong thing are the ones that really affect us the most. The ones that stop us going where we want to go or doing the things that we want to do.

How often do people not go to church because they fear that they will be condemned for something they have done in the past or because of their current lifestyle or just because they feel that they don’t belong. Even within our churches, there are people who are keeping parts of their lives hidden because they worry about what people will think of them. And, to be honest, they have grounds for thinking such things because there are parts of the church who have been very condemnatory in the past, and some who still are.

But the church is full of sinners! Just look around you – and don’t forget to look back at yourself! And there is no ranking for sins. You can’t say your sin is worse than my sin so it cannot be forgiven. All sin is failure: Romans 3: 23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If you have failed your driving test by a couple of minor faults or by several major ones, you have still failed and are not permitted to drive. Most of us know this to be
true and believe that we have been forgiven so how can we believe that there are those who might not or, even worse, should not be forgiven.

I came across a quote on Facebook the other day which is relevant to this topic (who says that God cannot speak to us through social media?). The quote is from Thomas Merton, who was a Trappist monk in the United States, was born in 1915 and died in 1968. I don’t know how much you know about Trappist monks but they are a very ascetic order, who are very much into self-discipline and abstention, which makes what he said even more amazing. He said
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” Apparently, these words came to him while he was walking the streets of New York, amongst the whole mix of humanity that was there. When I investigated further, the quote actually goes on “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business, and in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to
love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbours worthy. So, these words come from a man who set himself the highest personal standards and heard God telling him that he should love everyone regardless of who they are and what they might have done.

Our love should be unconditional, wholehearted and for everyone. Of course, we have the greatest example to follow – we know that Jesus died for all. Sometimes it is easy to say those words and just think about “the whole world” in a fairly distant sort of way but try adjusting your view a bit; focus in on the people around you, the people you live with, the people you work with, the people in this building right now. You are called to love them all in the same
way that God loves you – totally, completely and unconditionally. There will be people that you don’t agree with, but you’ve got to love ‘em, people who you don’t like much, you’ve got to love ‘em, people whose life style you don’t approve of, you’ve got to love ‘em. No exceptions, no buts, no what ifs.

Verse 21 of 1 John 4 in The Message translations reads: The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. The thing is love is sometimes hard. The Street Bible says that Love is not “our weedy, warm squidgy fluffy feelings towards God. No, love is his world-shifting passion for us that gave him no choice but to send his Son as a virgin sacrifice to lose the mess that blocked any chance of getting us and
God back together again.” Love is not easy. Anybody who thinks that the Christian life is a soft option has got it all wrong. We are called to forgive the unforgiveable and to love the unlovable. And that is hard. We can only do it because we know that God has shown his love for each one of us and we are secure in that.

So, let us be an open, welcoming and loving church. Let no one be afraid to come in through our doors because they feel that they will not be accepted. If anyone wants to say that we are mixing with sinners, then let them! They said the same of Jesus, so we have a great role model to follow. If we can offer unconditional love to all who are in the church now and all those who come through our doors, then there should be no need for anyone to fear anything. God
does not want any of us to live in fear and I am confident that Jesus will not accuse any of us of loving too much.

I said at the beginning of this that the last line of each verse of the song went: And then I remember there’s no need to be afraid:

This is why:

Because my God He is big
He’s gigantic He’s enormous
He is powerful and strong
He is amazing and He’s awesome
And there’s nothing in this world
That He couldn’t pulverize
So I know I’ve got nothing to fear No! No!
So I know I’ve got nothing to fear