God shows us how we can live without fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…” (1 John 4:18). In short, if we are living in fear, we are ignorant of perfect love. John is not saying, “Perfect love for God casts out all fear,” and he isn’t speaking of unwavering love or mature love in Christians, as some interpreters suggest. That isn’t where perfect love begins for true believers.

Certainly, we love God, a fact that is beyond doubt. But consider what John says about perfect love earlier in the chapter. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (4:12, my italics). According to John, the first consideration of perfect love is unconditional love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A Christian can say that he loves God, that he is doing the Lord’s will, that he is faithfully performing the work of the kingdom. Such a person may be a worshipper and even a teacher of the Word. But if he holds a grudge or speaks against another—if he shuts out anyone in the body of Christ—he walks in darkness, and a spirit of death is on him. All life, all good works, are out of order in this person. Consider what John says of him: “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9).

If you are interested in living a life without fear, John tells us there is a way to do so. Indeed, there is a perfect love that drives out all fear and this is the first step we must take: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Yes, we must first deal with our relationships in the body of Christ.

According to John we are commanded to love others as Christ loved us in order for love to be perfected in us. What is meant by this kind of love? It is more than forgiveness, much more. It means to forgive all transgressions toward us and then offer our fellowship. We are to esteem the ones who sinned against us as highly as we do other members of the body. When we let God’s love dwell in us and perfect us, all fear will be cast out.