Does Perfect Love Really Cast out Fear?


"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. " ~ 1 John 4:18

This seems somehow wrong to me. Although love can eliminate some fears, it seems to me it can lead to others. The Greek word translated love here is "agape" and denoting "affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love" according to Strong's G26 on This is the sense of love I will use for the rest of this post.

For the sake of argument, we have John Doe. He is my new best friend, and I love him perfectly (here meaning I extend the emotions to infinite intensity and purity). When I attempt to list the types of fear I could feel in regards to John, I come up with the following:
  1. Fear that John would intentionally harm me
  2. Fear that John would unintentionally harm me while thinking about something else
  3. Fear that John would unintentionally harm me while trying to help me
  4. Fear that I would lose John somehow (e.g. he moves away, dies, starts spending all his time watching old Star Trek shows, etc.)
  5. Fear of harm befalling John
  6. Fear that I would accidentally harm John myself
  7. Fear that my love for John would lead me to harm myself (while doing something to benefit John)
  8. Fear that my love for John would lead me to harm others
  9. Fear that my love for John would prevent me from loving others
  10. Fear that the John I love is (significantly) different from the real John
When I try to see what effect perfect love would have on these, I get:
  1. Successfully cast out
  2. Also cast out. I would assign whatever he is thinking about (even if I don't know what it is) a higher priority that whatever happened to me.
  3. No effec.
  4. This one gets worse the stronger my love for John is
  5. Ditto
  6. This one becomes really, really scary. To make it even worse, doing nothing might also have a negative effect of John.
  7. Eliminated, because I would consider what happened to John to be of overriding importance. This is probably a bad thing.
  8. As above, except without "probably"
  9. I don't think that love works like that. If I couldn't think of anyone else, I think I would have crossed the line to "obsession".
  10. I'm not sure what would happen to this one. It might become much stronger because I have more emotional capital invested in John. Or it might vanish because my love for John no longer depends on his attributes. Or I might be fully confident that I understood John, so the question would become void.
So, that totals:
Cast out: 4, including 2 good emotions
Amplified: 3
Unaffected: 1
Inapplicable: 2

We could fix the problem in 7 and 8 by making sure that my love for John is not disproportionate (i.e. l also love everyone else including myself perfectly). Alternatively, I could know that John care about all others (including me) and take that into account when I make my decisions.

However, even if we assume this is fixed, we still only have a 50% hit rate. This is somewhat disappointing.

And now, before this gets any more awkward, it is time to get rid of John. Poof!


I was told the verse in question refered to lov of God (which I knew). In this case, #6 still applies, with options on #7-10.

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