Question: The Bible says that we are to love God (Dt. 6:5), but also says in the very same chapter that we are to fear Him (Dt. 6:13), even though 1 John 4:18 claims there is no fear in love. I’m confused…
Let’s begin with the passage in First John:
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Context is everything. From the beginning of chapter four John encourages his readers to love one another with the same love God shows them through His Son, Jesus Christ. Such love demonstrates they truly belong to God and have nothing to fear on the Day of Judgment:
1 John 4:17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: n this world we are like Jesus.
For those who truly know the love of God through Jesus Christ and treat others with that same love, there is no fear of punishment or condemnation from God.
Deuteronomy 6:5, 13, on the other hand, specifically teach that we are to both love God and fear Him:
Deut. 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deut. 6:13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Love and fear are not mutually exclusive. In this context, both have little to do with emotions or feelings. You cannot make anyone feel love just by telling them to do so, nor can you make somebody feel afraid just by telling them to do so. Both love and fear are intended to convey actions in this case, not feelings.
To love God with the whole heart, soul and strength is to devote your entire being to God. To fear God, in this context, is connected with serving Him and acting as His representative when making promises and commitments. Our lives are to be spent acting as God’s emissaries, His ambassadors. We are not our own masters. Consequently, everything we do and say carries consequences beyond their own immediate impact. Every person will have to give an account to God as to how well we acted on His behalf in this life.
Rom. 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
The Bible teaches, therefore, that God is King as well as Creator, and that every human being is designed to be completely devoted to Him, exercising that devotion in how we live, love, work and play. To do otherwise is to rebel against God, His Kingdom and His design for our lives. Just as an earthly ambassador represents his own country in a foreign land by everything he or she says and does, so too are we ambassadors of the Kingdom of God to a world in rebellion against God. Our behavior reflects God’s character; and we who claim to be His followers are especially accountable.
Heb. 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”