Fear is the heart and soul of propaganda and evil people seeking to lord it over us. And we’ve experienced a very nasty taste of it during the pandemic. So will these fear tactics continue, sucking more and more of us into a morbid sense of helplessness and despair?
Clearly not for those who believe in the antidote, that “There is no fear in love,” I John 4:18. But how does that work exactly? How does “perfect love drive out fear” (same verse)?
The same way love drove out fear for Jesus as a human. Jesus knew he was the Son of God, and as God’s Son his Father lived his life in him (John 14:10-11), and since his Father is all love, 1 John 4:8, then love is what filled Jesus, not fear.
So, is that the same for us too? Yes, verse 4, because “You, dear children, are from God,” meaning we are the Father’s children too, which enables us to “overcome (the spirit of fear ruling this world), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (still verse 4). And who is the one “in us”? The same John tells us it’s Jesus (John 17:26). So Jesus is now living the love his Father has for him in us.
Which is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture, 1 John 4:13, because “We know that we live in him and he in us because he’s given us of his Spirit.” So the same Spirit that enabled Jesus to be filled with love and not fear is now doing the same for us. Paul understood it that way too, when he wrote that the Holy Spirit we’ve been given is a spirit of love, not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
But how on earth is our future going to be filled with love and not fear, when as John himself says in 1 John 4:3, that “the spirit of the antichrist even now is already in the world”? And the purpose of the antichrist is to deny Jesus is “from God” (same verse), so that we humans are left with no one to turn to when things get really scary. And for many unfortunate people that’s the situation they’re already in. And not knowing there’s a very real Jesus who knows exactly what they’re going through and he’s ready to help whenever they call on him, they see only a future full of things to be fearful about.
But here we are with this marvellous gift of the Holy Spirit in us to enable us to be witnesses to Jesus. We are visible, living proof that yes, he does help us in our time of need, so that we experience the same peace he experienced despite the scary future he knew awaited him on the cross.
And evil people did terrible things to him. He knew they would too, because Scripture described them in detail (Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22) But instead of hating the people who would do this to him, he asked his Father to forgive them. And instead of fear he went to the cross with joy (Hebrews 12:2), because in his death he would absorb every evil perpetrated by humans into himself so that evil would not fill our future. It may look like it does, because evil still exists in horrible ways, but only so that people turn to him and find that yes, that help is there to overcome any fear of it (Philippians 4:6-7).
And that’s what we carry with us wherever we go, knowing what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and knowing we have the Holy Spirit living Jesus’ love, joy and peace in us, to enable us to be filled with love for even our worst enemies, rather than being scared of, or hating, them.
It’s one of the staggering gifts of the Holy Spirit we’ve been given by the resurrected Christ so we can be witnesses to him and his undying love for even the worst of sinners. It doesn’t matter what people do to us personally, therefore, because Jesus living his love in us enables us to seek their forgiveness for having no idea what they’re doing or who’s pulling their strings.
Does that mean we never experience despair and fear because Jesus is living in us? But Jesus was also a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) and helplessly unable to carry on at times (Matthew 26:38), but in turning to his Father he got the help he needed (Hebrews 5:7), to keep on loving us no matter what we humans did to him.
So that’s in our future too when Jesus lives in us, because it’s HIS perfect love in us that’s our antidote to fear.