There was a thing I observed when I met him the day before surgery but did not process until afterward. He was chipper and happy, engaged and pleasant, in generaly relaxing in the lead up to heart surgery. He even jested, “Well, tomorrow at this time I’ll either be fixed or in glory!” That was jest, not cynicism. It also was a witness for it belied the calm which had pervaded him. A hospice doctor once told me, “Atheists die badly.” That was in distinction to Christians where sadness is present, but hope enveloped. Isn’t this situation with my Christian dad in the same vein?
That is one of the many valuable things one gains in following Christ. That is a segway to verse 18.
Verse 18-No fear
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18–ESV)
Did dad have fear before the CABG? Probably, in his own way, for these events are not just happily-ever-after type things. That being said the momentary lead-ups to the unhappy don’t have to be accompanied by the fear of the long-term follow-ups after the unhappy.
BUT … don’t miss what is going on here. John and this example with my dad are not metrics, not parameters, not boxes to check so that you can sell religion or heart surgery. Metrics are sterile, but a life without fear is what everyone wants. John is saying, “People, there is no fear here. Love like Jesus casts out the fear.” Some people don’t claim their fears, and others seem to be wired fearlessly, but ultimately (or in this context death) catches up. It may run like a turtle, but it is always back there. That death-train is always on the railroad track we just don’t know how far back there it is. Sometimes we see it, hear it, smell the steam chugging out of its smokestack, but we get away. We know that eventually, it will knock us off the trestle. That trestle-knock is inherently fearful, but if love has been made complete in us, the fear is gone. At least that is what John said, and how my dad was living.
So if we want to be fearless, we need to live like Jesus. We must aim for life like Christ, though, not the No Fear target. Aim to be fearless, and you will always miss. Aim for Christlikeness, and you never will.
Verses 19 & 20
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:18–ESV)
John now returns to the main theme of his letter. Those who claim to love God and yet live hatingly are liars. The false teachers are but deceptive mists. They look like strength; the speak like strength, but their imperfect love will not lead to a good witness. In our modern time, we do not even know the names of those false teachers. We do not see the endgame they had, but I do not think there will be any glory in it. John’s Jesus-type loving lifestyle results in glory. The false teacher’s self-loving-type lifestyle results in a pig-pen (sorry pigs). When the followers of Jesus see him, there may be an opportunity to see how the self-service station worked for these others.
John concludes with that same message: Love God-Love Others.