If you listen to classic rock, you might lean towards an oxymoron supposition. Along with an array of songs about being in love, strains abound on how much love hurts. Or that it stinks. The phraseology may differ, but the gist is carried through multiple music genres.

Of course, there is a kind of love we may hear about—or even experience—which is beautiful and wholesome. Yet even in the best of relationships, human love has flaws.

Which makes the phrase “perfect love” stand out. It doesn’t correspond with our inability—no matter how hard we work at it—to love or be loved by others perfectly.

This phrase came across my radar when reading a book written by someone who clearly loved being loved. It’s couched in I John 4:18:

“… perfect love casts out fear …”

The writer was qualified to communicate about perfect love because he was empowered by God’s Holy Spirit after having witnessed it in the person of Jesus Christ (I John 1:3). John shared life experiences with Jesus, daily observing the vast difference between human love and the perfect love which only comes from God.

* * *

Along with the praiseworthy attributes recorded about John, the biblical record doesn’t shy away from his inability to love perfectly.

There was an incident where the people in a Samaritan village didn’t extend hospitality to Jesus or His messengers, and John and his brother were upset. Luke 9:54-55 records:

“When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy it?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them.”

Jesus didn’t casually mention over his shoulder that doing so wasn’t necessary. What we read is that Jesus turned. He stopped whatever it was He was in the process of doing and reoriented His body in such a way as to look fully upon James and John. He then rebuked them; their hearts weren’t in synch with God’s and Jesus loved them enough to immediately set them straight.

To their credit, James and John had perhaps been thinking, “How can these people shun Jesus? He’s the Messiah! The Creator God!” When righteous indignation seemed wholly appropriate to John, he instead found himself witnessing—firsthand—perfect, commanding love emanating from the heart of Jesus. That very love and mercy which keeps all of us from being annihilated!

John’s next recorded shortcomings in the “loving others well” department is found in Mark 9:33 when the disciples were discussing among themselves which of them was the greatest. We read in Luke 22:24 the subject arose yet again between the disciples, this time escalating into a full blown argument and that right in front of Jesus:

 “And there arose a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be the greatest.”

Clearly, John was an active participant in these exchanges, for the Gospel accounts do not say he abstained.

* * *

Like the rest of humanity, John was incapable of disseminating information about perfect love as someone who had mastered it. Rather, God enabled him to write as a man who marveled at seeing—and being the recipient of—the perfect love to be found in Jesus Christ.

I’m beginning to get that. The more we desire to love Christ well and model Him, the more we’re aware of just how often we miss the mark and how poorly we sometimes love others. The way in which God loves us, despite our failures, is astounding!

This may be why John would later describe himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He had grown to appreciate the fact he wasn’t any better or more lovable than the other disciples of Christ. And he couldn’t help publicly celebrating that he—an imperfect mortal—was truly and perfectly loved by Almighty God.

This is the stuff earth’s greatest love songs are made of:

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so! 

* * *

To be clear, perfect love isn’t one which acquiesces to the whims and wishes of the object of its love. It is found only in God and moves and works in perfect unity with each of His divine attributes.

For instance, God is Spirit (John 4:24); hence, His love is spiritual in nature. Perfect love goes beyond the physical needs of its willing recipients, abundantly providing for their every spiritual need. John witnessed Jesus miraculously providing food to feed thousands of men, women, and children (more than once). But he would come to grasp the immensity of Jesus having come into the world to meet mankind’s spiritual needs, which are of eternal consequence (John 3:16).

* * *

Just as we have a lover of our souls in Jesus Christ, we have an enemy of our souls in Satan. And this enemy takes evil delight any time we are loved imperfectly, or love others imperfectly.

He’d like us to be so wounded in the name of love we find it hard to believe there’s such a thing as perfect love. Or that it can be ours to know.

He capitalizes on our feelings of guilt for having failed to love others well, convincing us that we’re slime-balls with no hope of full forgiveness or standing with God. Perfect love may exist, he may whisper, but we blew any chance we had of treasuring it now or through eternity.

I’m fighting tears, here, because—praise God—those things aren’t true!

* * *

We saw in Luke 9:55 how Jesus turned before admonishing James and John when they asked about the possibility of having the Samaritan village wiped out. Later, John either witnessed—or heard Peter share—how Jesus turned and looked at Peter after he denied knowing Christ shortly before the Lord’s crucifixion:

“After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, ‘Certainly this man also was with Him for he is a Galilean too.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, ‘Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.’”

* * *

There is every reason to believe Peter, in his most shame-stricken moment of life, saw Jesus painfully reorient His abused and bleeding body in order to look full upon him… in the glorious manifestation of perfect love.

Why think that?

Because even though we’re told Peter went out and wept bitterly, his story didn’t end there.

Peter had hope. Despite each morning’s crowing of roosters, he held to life. And Peter was re-grouped with the disciples of Christ and present when the women returned from the tomb of Jesus the third day of His death. They were undoubtedly wide-eyed when they breathlessly told them the stone had been rolled away from the tomb’s entrance. And there was an angel in white who said the most wonderful things!

“Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.” (Mark 16:7)

“… tell His disciples and Peter …”

How was Peter able to show his face to the other disciples and be in the room to hear the women share the angel’s message?  Because He’d seen perfect love. Jesus loved him, even at his worst. And he knew Jesus was the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world… and Peter.

Peter and John, we’re told, immediately raced to the empty tomb.

Perfect Love was alive!

* * *

Wondrously, the failures of human love do not overshadow the perfection of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

* * *

Like John, we can marvel at seeing the flawless love found in the Lord Jesus through his writings and those of other New Testament believers (including our beloved brother in Christ, Peter). Not only that, but we can also delight in perfect love—fully restored and in fellowship with Christ—no matter our wounds, failures, or whispered lies of the enemy.

* * *

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:9-11)

I encourage you to consider fitting in a read of the book of John this week and being refreshed with the marvelous truth:

You are loved—Perfectly!

(And perfect love does cast out fear)

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

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