Fear and Love

There is a perfect love, and it casts out fear, not because it is the opposite of fear, driving it out as the light drives out the darkness, but because it is the master of fear, casting it out like a demon is cast from the possessed.

If I fear, it is because I do not know truly that I am loved.  If I knew truly, if I knew perfectly, how perfectly I am loved, I would never fear.  To take courage is only to trust in perfect love, though I can can never know it perfectly.  It is to seek perfect love, to find it out, to dwell in it, and fear will find itself cast away, because it cannot abide where love abides.

  1. Lisa Onbelet said:

    I like this, and I think I agree with most of it. But I’m not sure. I at least agree with the argument that love masters fear.
    However, I have to think a bit more about all of this stuff together. Right now, I’m focussed on the phenomenological question of what is fear? You focussed on the more obvious connection between fear and darkness and love. But does fear only happen in darkness? And is the problem really, or just an inability, to know “deeply” (for lack of a better description) that I am loved completely?
    I am considering fear that occurs in the light. For example, the message of every angel who has adressed a human being: “Fear not.” I also think of the scripture which tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding.” God is perfect, and I do think that there is a kind of fear that is good, healthy, and proper in response to God’s being/essence, which I believe includes His love for me and the world. Whether or not it is the same fear which you address above is the question I haven’t yet resolved. Nor have I yet drawn an inward picture of what this healthy fear looks like or how it is related to love.

  2. Lisa,

    I would say that it is not mere personal failing that prevents me from knowing the perfection with which I am loved, but that it is part of my being as such. Because I am, I do not know the perfect love that can appear only apart from being.

    This is why I would contest some of your language about the being or the essence of God. I would say that it is only because something appears apart from being, something that might least inappropriately be called God, that I can be loved perfectly at all. If this love appeared in a way that was commensurate with my being, in a way that I could know, it would not be perfect. It would be reduced to the object of my knowledge, would cease to warrant the name of God at all.

    My fearful response, therefore, is never to God, because I can never know God. My fearful response is only to my experience of God in the degree that God condescends to know me. Such fear is the only proper response to my experience of God, not because it would resist being cast out by perfect love, but precisely because it is a recognition of my inability to know this perfect love. It does not fear perfect love. It fears that it does not know perfect love. It does not fear in response to God. It fears in response to the realization that it is itself not God and is not itself able to know God.

    To seek perfect love, therefore, is to seek what can never appear by my own seeking. It is to seek what I can never hope to grasp or tocomprehend. It is to seek, not to know love, not to find it, not to possess it, but merely to abide in it, in all passivity. It is to seek that love might come, apart from any merit of my own, and make a place for my habitation.

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