Why the Opposite of Love is not Hate but Fear

daily text logoMay 11, 2015

1 John 4:17-18

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.



Over and over and over John brings us back to the hard objectivity of love over and against love as a soft, subjective sentiment. Humans are capable of all sorts of “loving” expressions. One minute we speak of how much we “love” that new restaurant across town, and the next of how much we “love” our spouse (and on Facebook of all places).

We need a completely different way to categorize and talk about “love” when it comes to the way John employs the term, as well as much of the rest of the New Testament.

John chose the Greek term, “agape” to capture what he meant by “love.” But still it begged the question. Sure, John could give a conceptual definition of agape; something like the self-giving preferential treatment of another person at cost to yourself. I can grasp a definition like this but I still don’t know what it looks like. We insert the word, “holy” in front of love to signify we are talking about love of another magnitude of order. The problem with all these definitions is the way they keep us talking around the subject. We must see an objective demonstration of this holy love of God. That’s why John points to a person.

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 

We must move beyond a conceptual definition of love to a “boots on the ground love looks like (fill in the blank)” definition. Love looks like that time Jesus invited a despised tax collector to be his disciple. Love looks like that time Jesus struck up a conversation with the Samaritan woman of questionable reputation at the well. Love looks like that time Jesus saved his disciples lives by speaking peace to a raging storm. Love looks like that time Jesus told a dead little girl’s parents to not be afraid but to believe, after which he raised her back to life. Love looks like that time Jesus washed his disciples feet.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

In each of these scenarios (and so  many more) Jesus entered a situation characterized by fear and anxiety. Because his presence was the unadulterated expression of the holy love of God, fear and anxiety simply left. The presence of Jesus, which is to say the presence of holy love, drives out fear by displacing it.

The journey of becoming like Jesus can be described in many ways. In my judgment, chief among them would be the process from being a person of “fear” to becoming a person of “love.” So I ask you, what experience do you evoke in other people? Does your presence cause anxiety or unease or fear? Or does your presence exude a quality of peace that not only communicates it is well with your soul, but that it is going to be ok for others too?

Remember, the path of following Jesus leads to perfect love; not because you will ever arrive at the place where you make no mistakes, but because the further we follow him, the more our presence exudes his presence. Jesus is himself the power of love in the face of fear. To the extent you and I abide in Jesus, we become the power of love in the face of fear. To the extent we don’t, we are part of the problem.

Are you ready to go to the next level? Remember, the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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