perfect love, imperfect fear

perfect love

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

February 1, 2010

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 judgment. 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 lose, but he has to deal with something that he just lost AND having to punish you for losing 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 as He did, we no longer have a reason to be afraid of the judgment to come.

Perfect love shreds our imperfect [and immature] fear.



  1. Amber

    i like that. i think i sometimes have a hard time fully understanding what Jesus did. i mean, it happened so long ago and it's not like i can talk to someone who was there. it's harder to wrap your mind around an event when you weren't there to experience it. we have the pictures and the movies that try to do it justice yet those don't come close to what He really went through. He went through all that pain and suffering for each of us. He took the blame so we wouldn't have to. thanks for the reminder 🙂

  2. @bibledude

    It was really cool to see this one come together! When I had my class pick an idea for us to develop, someone said 'fear'. So we went with it, and as we picked our scripture passage from 1 John, it ended up being a story more about love and what Jesus did.

    I agree that it is a great reminder on what He did for us, especially when you consider that it erases any fear or anxiety that we might carry about potential punishment for our sins.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Amber!

  3. goodwordediting

    Hey, Dan. I hope your ears weren't burning too much. Been talking about you all day. First with the Deidox people and now with Keith Miller and his team.


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perfect love, imperfect fear

by Dan King time to read: 3 min