When I was afraid as a child, I would often go to my room. It was my "safe" place because it was comfortable and quiet. In my room I could think, with all my favorite and familiar belongings around me. I felt protected, as if I had escaped and nothing could harm me. I suppose that qualified me for the "flight" category in the fight or flight method of conflict response.
I still prefer the quiet to think, but as I grew older, one of the things I came to realize was that being alone in a room is isolating. When left with our own thoughts and apprehensions, our imagination can sometimes run wild, and not always in a productively positive manner. All kinds of stories of fear get made up in our heads when left to our own devices: "she doesn't like me," or "I'm such an idiot for doing _______" or " I hope I didn't' say something wrong." We get paranoid, self-berating and anxious when we don't have anyone to bounce ideas off or get perspective on an encounter. In this manner of behavior, we are living in fear.
When the author of I John 4 shares that perfect love casts out fear, I wonder if part of the fear he is speaking of has to do with isolation. One of our biggest fears in life has to do with dying alone, or being abandoned in relationships. We all fear being alone, which makes sense, because God created us to be in relationship. And by being in relationship with God, our perfect companion, that fear is cast aside.
Last week, when we spoke about what "perfect love" is, we discovered it was not about being flawless, but rather about reaching God's goal, or achieving the purpose for which God and we are designed. Our purpose with God is relationship. That is why this passage goes on to explain the depth of connection to loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can't be in genuine relationship with God if we can not be in relationship with others. God builds relationship with us, not in isolation, but in our connections with each other.
Perhaps in those relationships, the negative voices of fear will start to be drowned out by the strength of the voice of God's love.
Do not be afraid, for God's perfect love is with us always.
Let us rely together on the perfect love of God,