Some hold that fear and love contradict one another–that fear is contrary to love. But in actuality, these go hand in hand. Love and fear are necessarily related.
Below are three points of perspectives on this relationship.
Firstly, that which we cherish and hold dear, we love.
We love that which is precious and hate the thought of losing that which is so important to us. We don’t want to lose that or whom we love or have it or them taken from us.
Thus we fear losing that which we love. And hence, in effort to mitigate the fear of loss, to what extent will we love the beloved? Fear drives us to the action of faith.
To illustrate, if my wife is diagnosed with cancer, what would I not do to effectuate a cure and insure her future?
We know in His sovereignty, He holds control of the beloved, and not us. As much as we want to control the well-being of those we love, we find we don’t control outcomes. And so we fear God, because as our actions of love do not determine the well-being of beloved, His do.
We fear God because He determines the plight of us all, the things and people we love.
Secondly, the fear of God and the love of God is commanded. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and will all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This is demonstrated by “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me…” (John 14:21). The fear of the consequences of not keeping these commands is for our good—it motivates and causes us to love.
Thirdly, we are instructed to agape one another, the Greek New Testament word translated as love. Agape is doing what we perceive is in the beloved’s best interest. This love does not come naturally, but originates out of fear.
1 John 3:23-24: “This is the commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him and He in him. And, we know by this that He abides in us, but the Spirit who He has given us.”
We will be judged in our obedience to the command to love others. To the extent we do this perfectly, we will be rewarded. Conversely, if we are deficient in our obedience to this command, we have reason to fear judgment.
John further writes: “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” -1John 4:17-18.
Agape is not something we can conjure up. It becomes possible for us because in v. 19: “We love, because He first loved us.”
It is the supernatural work of God, because of what He has done for us and in us. And so we fear God and love one another. We love others because, 1) it is commanded; (2), in our best interest; 3), we fear loss and 4); we will be held to account.
Fear insures and sustains our motivation to love. This is the path He has made for us.