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The Table Video

Nicholas Wolterstorff

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
June 5, 2017

Nicholas Wolterstorff comments on the biblical passage 1 John 4:18, “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.”


I wanna close with, asking what you make of this very beautiful New Testament phrase, that “Perfect love casts out fear.”? One one way to understand is the proliferation of injustice, is that there is a deeply held fear in both the oppressors and the oppressed. But that, were we to inject love love that, that understands justice and seeks justice, then that fear might be cast out and we might–

Yeah. [laughs]

we might come closer to one another.

So it’s very interesting, the model or a model of ASJ in Honduras is “Perfect love cast out fear.” And when they talk about it, what they say is, the work they do is dangerous but justice work is usually dangerous because almost always you get somebody angry.

As I mentioned one of their main attorney was shot at point-blank range about three years ago, so it takes courage. Perfect love cast out fear, so they’re very guts– they’re loving and very gutsy people, but of course they’re human beings, and there’s always a bit of fear. In fact the leaders of the organization the government gives them around the clock bodyguards.

Evan: Hmm.

When I, my wife, and other people have gone down there, there’s always a bodyguard around. So it’s, it’s fear but also, sort of watch out.

Yeah but there’s a written and it points to the fact that, love, to love is to put something at risk.

Yes, especially if the love takes the form of seeking justice. You know, relief and development projects seldom creates hatred and add like a tedium, well I mean, you know you’re relieving this group of people, not these, so this other group might be upset and so forth. Which is not, you’re not normally stirring up hostility, but usually a justice organization is trying to get someone to stop doing what they’re doing, and they don’t want to stop doing what they’re doing.