Perfect in Love

It is a perilous time in these United States. As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s independence from foreign military rule, the Commander in Chief is gearing up for a Fourth of July rally that features armed soldiers, tanks, and other weaponry on parade. This is not the typical American celebration with fireworks sealing a day of picnics and baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Rather it’s a putrid show of might typically staged by dictators and tyrants. The point is to make people afraid and it stinks.

We who follow Jesus innately know that fear and freedom don’t go together, because fear (not hate) is the true opposite of love. That’s why this ridiculous macho display of military power, culminating on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial no less, would be laughable if it weren’t so hideous.

Not that we haven’t seen it before. There’s a long American tradition of making people afraid in the name of love, with most of it happening in Christian circles. The thinking seems to follow a highly suspect logic: because we love you and because you aren’t following our path, we will do everything we can to scare you into conforming to our beliefs. Why? Because God loves you and will do everything possible to scare the hell out of you. (Take that last phrase literally, because that’s what they mean.)

What kind of love is that? How can love that wields a sledgehammer be liberating? Such an idea is nonsense and everyone knows it.

But let’s not lean too heavily on what we know and understand, since scripture advises against it. Rather, let’s hear from St. John, who wrote these words to the Early Church: “We have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love” (1 John 4:16-18).

Because God is love, God doesn’t need to resort to fearful threats to win our love and loyalty. That kind of nonsensical thinking is the stuff of thugs and bullies. In fact, God’s love works in the opposite way. It reassures us that we are spared punishment. “We may have boldness on the day of judgment” is how John puts it. We have no reason to fear! And freedom from fear sets us free to live whole and truthful lives.

This Independence Day, I encourage us all to turn our backs on the adolescent hijinks talking place on the Washington Mall. Such fear tactics hold no fascination for us. Instead, when we look into night sky and marvel at the fireworks displays, let’s rejoice in our freedom of fear made perfect in love. That’s something to celebrate!

Join us on, July 14, as we celebrate faith-based freedom with our monthly Sunday worship experience. This month’s theme is Fearless! and we will rejoice in the liberating power of God’s perfect love. Service begins at 5pm in the Chapel of Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, in Oak Park, IL. It will also be available via FB Live.

We need your help!

As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!

Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea

As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.