Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

Dear Friend,

Carolyn Woo visits with Iraqi children whose families have been displaced by ISIS. Photo by © Rawsht Twana / Metrography for Catholic Relief Services

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo visits with Iraqi children whose families have been displaced by ISIS. Photo by  Rawsht Twana/Metrography for Catholic Relief Services

What is the opposite of love?

Most would probably answer “hate.” And certainly that is true in many ways. But I want to propose a different answer—fear.

The scripture tells us this in the fourth chapter of 1 John, verse 18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.”

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, when we contemplate the basic tenets of our faith, we must consider love and think about what Jesus asks of us when he tells us to love our neighbor as ourself and to love our enemy.

Fundamental to following the path of love is obeying 1 John and acting without fear. As I write this, I see so much fear in the world, fear that all too often drives out love.

There are, of course, many things that understandably cause us to be afraid—acts of terror, mass shootings, bombings, natural disasters, epidemics of deadly diseases. Jesus does not tell us we should be afraid; he challenges us to respond.

If we do it with fear, we shut the doors; we circle the wagons; we limit ourselves only to people we know and trust. We refuse to encounter anyone else.

This is exactly what we see all too often in our world today—fear that is understandable becoming fear that is corrosive, that closes off most of the world, that blames and suspects the “other”—those who are “not like us”—the alien, the immigrant, and in too many cases—the Muslim.

Think about reacting as Jesus asks us to—with love. We leave the doors open. We realize that only those who perpetrated the act that made us afraid are at fault, that all “others” are not to blame. In fact, we find that people we considered “others” feel exactly as we do—afraid. They do not need or deserve our fear, they need our comfort. They need our love. They need exactly what we need.

We at Catholic Relief Services are often active in places where fear runs rampant. It can be the fear of another storm or earthquake, of hunger or violence. We see so often in these circumstances that fear is indeed the opposite of love. It causes people to retreat, and to view others with suspicion.

But we also see—whether we are distributing food and shelter in an emergency or working on peacebuilding after violent conflict—how it is possible to open up people’s hearts and minds to the benefits of a different approach. Our work is based on Jesus’ approach of love that greets and welcomes the stranger, inviting others in to share the bounty.

As we begin the season of Lent this month, I urge you and your family to participate in CRS Rice Bowl, which embodies the proper reaction to the fear so rampant in our society. Rather than shutting our doors to the world, CRS Rice Bowl opens them. Rather than emphasizing differences, CRS Rice Bowl helps us reflect on how similar we all are as brothers and sisters in God’s family.

The alms that your family places in your CRS Rice Bowl open your children up to people around the world—the“other” people that so many voices are telling them to fear. Through CRS Rice Bowl, your children can make a connection with them in charity and love, because, as the Bible tells us, “perfect love drives out fear.”

It is a lesson that will serve them and all of us well in the coming months and years, indeed, for the rest of our lives.

May blessings overflow,

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO

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One Response to “Perfect Love Drives Out Fear”

  1. Lisa McManus Says:

    Thank you for your timely and inspiring message. A group of us here in Grand Rapids Mi are developing an interfaith response ‘event’ that will offer a counter dialog to the fear mongering that dominates our media these days. I will share your words with them and others.
    Thank you for the wonderful work that you do.


    Lisa McManus

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