Remember that time when you were a kid? You know… that time that you and some other kids (friends, siblings, whatever…) were horsing around and something broke. It wasn’t even your fault, but when dad came to see what happened you just knew that you were in trouble.
Oh boy, was your dad mad!
His nose flared and the veins popped out in his forehead. Instantly everyone was afraid of the wrath that was to come.
You, and everyone else just froze.
Since nobody wanted to own up to the horseplay that resulted in the [whatever it was] that got broken, everyone was going to be punished. Nobody wanted to take the punishment so each one of you pointed your finger at somebody else. Maybe it was you that ‘fell’ into it, but it was your brother that pushed you. Everyone had an excuse as to why it wasn’t them that should get punished.
So everyone was sent to their room to wait for the final judgement. Remember that feeling?
Sitting there alone.
Every second feels like an hour. Things start running through your head, and the fear overtakes you. The waiting is somehow worse than whatever the punishment could end up being.
Then dad steps into the room where you’re waiting. He says things like, “this hurts me more than it hurts you.”
You think, “How can it possibly hurt him more than it hurts me?”
You forget that the thing that broke was a priceless [to him] heirloom that has been passed down in his family for generations. It was something that connected him to the very essence of who he is. And now you must pay for the damage that has been done.
At that moment it’s hard for you to understand what your dad is feeling. You are devastated because of what you are about to loose, but he has to deal with something that he just lost AND having to punish you for loosing it. Still it is hard for you to look past what’s about to happen to you, especially considering that you don’t think that you were to blame.
Then it happened…
Just before you are about to receive your punishment, your brother walks into the room. He’s crying. He tells your dad that you didn’t do anything wrong. He takes responsibility for the whole thing. He steps in and takes your punishment.
Remember how you felt?
The fear was gone.
The Apostle John talks about this same feeling when he speaks about the Lord:
There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].
— 1 John 4:18 (Amplified)
I’ve always looked at this verse without fully understanding how to apply this idea that “love casts out all fear”. I guess that I always tried to figure out how I should love others, but still struggled to make the connection with how exactly it was supposed to cast out fear. But John wasn’t talking about us.
He was talking about Jesus.
Remember that sin that you have in your life? Jesus stepped in and took our punishment. He didn’t want us to have to pay for it. He stepped in because of His [perfect] love for us.
When Jesus showed His love for us by stepping in like He did, we no longer have a reason to be afraid of the judgement to come.
Perfect love shreds our imperfect [and immature] fear.
Note: The idea for this post came out of one was developed in an exercise in the Spring 2010 Homiletics class I’m teaching at Sarasota Bible College. The idea was a group effort, so I cannot take full credit for developing it. Special thanks to Anita Gerbig and Todd and Jeri Schliecher for brainstorming this with me!