|Perfect Love by Kathi Pelton |
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John
The other night I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and clearly heard in my spirit: ¯Perfect love casts out fear!¯ Obviously this is a familiar verse, but since it was so clearly spoken I knew that God wanted to reveal a deeper level of truth to me.
As I lay in my bed pondering what the Lord had just spoken, I became aware of areas of ongoing fear in my life. Then I heard it again: ¯Perfect love casts out fear!¯ With the repetition, I began to experience a new awareness of my Father¯s perfect love toward me.
We have all been subject to the imperfect love that comes from our earthly parents, our spouses, our friends. Also, we have shown imperfect love to those around us. Imperfect love can fail us, disappoint us, abandon us¯even punish us. But God¯s perfect love will never fail us in any way.
Punishment or Discipline?
¯My son, do not make light of the Lord¯s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.¯ Hebrews 12:5-6
Most of the world has experienced being punished for the mistakes they have made at one time or another. Because this is so commonplace, it is easy to read many of life¯s trials as punishment from God for being imperfect or for falling short (or even for making a mistake).
One of the differences between discipline and punishment is that discipline teaches us how to learn from our mistakes, but punishment makes us suffer for those same mistakes. Our sufferings are not because God is punishing us! I hope you realize this is truly a lie of the enemy that has caused many to be trapped in despair, fear and a sense of failure.
Discipline flows out of a motive of love, protection, respect and honor; often punishment comes from self-serving motives of anger, resentment and control. God¯s discipline is both pure and perfect in love.
If you have been gripped by the fear of punishment, begin to ask the Holy Spirit to remove the root of fear and punishment from your heart, mind and body. This fearful reaction to our shortcomings can leave us in a state of absolute spiritual paralysis. Have you have ever experienced harsh punishment? This can set up an emotional ¯default reaction¯ inside that causes you to believe that every time you make a mistake, or stumble even momentarily, you will be punished. Punishment invokes fear; fear sets up a chain reaction of self survival and we begin to ¯protect ourselves from God¯. Yet, God¯s discipline leads us lovingly out of our mistakes to the very place He had intended for us to be. His discipline is fully redemptive, treating us as beloved children as He corrects us with respect, kindness, love and integrity.
We need to remember this in our parenting as well. Punishment almost always brings shame and a crushing sense of failing to please the one in authority, but discipline brings forth a sense of protection, covering, love and respect. One executes control and the other one guides.
The Characteristics of Perfect Love
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
This is perfect love and God never strays from this kind of love. As God¯s children we live in the grip and grace of perfect love. How we long to love one another with this kind of love! We need to stop viewing God through the filter of
imperfect love. When we truly believe that God loves us with ¯perfect love¯ then we will be free from the gripping fear that we will be abandoned, failed, dishonored, and uncovered. Humans may do these things but God never will.
I am amazed at how often I find myself falling into the momentary false belief that somehow God will let me down or not come to my rescue. Most of us experience this at times, but let¯s make sure that it is only momentary! Perfect love cannot and will not fail us, but there are times we seem to demand that love perform certain actions or we feel betrayed. However, just like a good parent, God will not give us something that will cause us harm no matter how badly we want it. We cannot separate love and
discipline because discipline flows out of love.
As most of you who read my articles know, my husband and I have gone through a few years of trials that have been profoundly difficult and yet very refining. These trials have definitely brought up areas in us that needed the Lord¯s discipline. They were areas that needed alignment with God¯s desires for us so that we would be able to move forward in the responsibilities God has for us. Perfect love allowed us to experience deep pain in order to build character, maturity, and dependency. As a parent I find it tremendously difficult to love in this way because I hate to see my children experience pain. I have little doubt that at times I have caused them even deeper and longer lasting pain by not allowing the momentary
pain that discipline can bring.
Love Never Fails
¯Because he loves me,¯ says the Lord, ¯I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver and honor him. With Long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.¯ Psalm 91:14-16
Though we can only offer the Lord our imperfect love, still he responds with His perfect love with promises such as Psalm 91. He is such an amazing Father who loves to respond to us even before we ask! He loves to honor us, rescue us, deliver us and satisfy us.
I can truly say that most of the stress in my life comes from my own sin of worry or unbelief, not from God¯s unfaithfulness. He is always faithful but often I want to demand that things happen ¯NOW¯! If only we could
fully rest in the confidence of His promises, we would walk with Him beside those still waters and enjoy His presence. We need to stop exchanging the gift of peace for the fury and chaos that comes from worry.
Psalm 23 is filled with promises of daily living and the peace that comes when we walk with God.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name¯s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will
fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
¯I lack nothing!¯ There is no lack in His perfect love and there is no fear when we stay within His perfect love. In that love there is
goodness, comfort and refreshment for us. Within His perfect love we are led onto the right paths (no longer shall we make a guess of the right way to go) and within His perfect love we can know that even within the darkest valleys in our lives we are not alone and do not need to fear.
¯Lord, I pray that your perfect love will come right now into the hearts of each one reading this article. Where fear and experiences of punishment have misinterpreted life events and undermined your promises, I pray that you would deliver each one from every root that has caused them to be gripped with fear. I declare that all of your promises are true and are available for each one of us. We now receive the fullness of your
perfect love; we receive your discipline because by that we know that we are true sons and daughters. We invite your comfort, your refreshing, your goodness and your love to overwhelm us in our daily walks. We renounce every agreement that we have with fear. We renounce every belief that we have entertained that you do not love us with perfect love. Align our hearts, renew our minds, refresh our souls and remind us of your many promises. Perfect us in our love and forgive us for measuring you by human love. In Jesus Name, Amen¯