The opposite of love

Published 9:37 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By Ross Reitz

Usually, we think of hate being the opposite of love. I’ve heard others say that apathy is really the opposite of love. But the Bible makes the argument that fear is truly the opposite of love.

I John 4:18 says, “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.”

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Fear may be our strongest motivator. Fear keeps us silent when we see injustice. Fear makes us join in the bullying or ostracizing of others, so that the bullies won’t turn on us. Fear makes us defend corruption in our government. Fear even can make us kill and excuse those who kill.

To silence our witness as Christians, Satan doesn’t have to make us hate. He just has to make us afraid. He introduces fear into our sermons and Christian radio, and soon, instead of being the victorious people of God who can love others, even in the face of death, we become critical cowards. We talk more about how to defend ourselves than how to reach out to the defenseless.

When I think of courage, I think of my Aunt Doris. She was 32 years old when her husband and oldest son were killed. She was left alone to raise six other children. The oldest was 11.

Growing up, I never realized that my aunt should have had PTSD. She should have been scared of the unpredictability of life and stayed in her house, sheltering her remaining children. But instead, I saw a woman who knew everyone in the county and kept a notebook by her telephone so that she could keep up with the news of everyone who called her. Instead, I saw a woman who opened her home to relatives, friends of relatives, friends of friends of relatives, and even strangers who slid off the curvy road onto her front lawn. I saw a woman who showed up at every single school and community event I was involved in the year my own father died, just so my mother would not have to go to them alone.

When my aunt died, they had to move her funeral to the biggest church in the town, and still every pew was filled. My aunt did not set out to be courageous. She just set out to love. And love made her courageous anyway.

Fear makes us try to control life, which only God can do. But God doesn’t play by our rules. Matthew chapters 5 through 7 record Jesus’ greatest sermon. In that sermon, Jesus promises his disciples that following him and acting righteously can cause you to be persecuted, even killed. Jesus never backs down from this statement, and in fact, He repeats it (Matthew 16:24-25).

Yet, Jesus never took our physical insecurity as an excuse to be exclusive or to arm our churches. Instead, Jesus repeatedly taught us — and showed us — to love others, even those who are persecuting us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 23: 34)

Maybe this is why Jesus told us to count the cost before choosing to follow Him (Luke 14:25-32). Part of following Jesus is trusting God so much that we can reach out in love, even when we are afraid. And when we can do that, we really will have something to share with the rest of the world.


Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.