My favorite triangle of contradictory biblical verses:
- The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1:7)
- Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
- There is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18)
This raises an interesting question. Why is there no fear in love? The idea is elegant, but not entirely logical. With any good thing, there is always a fear that you’ll lose it. If you don’t fear losing something you have, that thing must not be too valuable.
An obvious rebuttal is the idea of “unconditional love.” If you have something unconditionally, you’re unafraid to lose it not because it’s not valuable, but because it can’t be lost. But first, the existence of anything unconditional is questionable. We as people are conditional – a ridiculous set of unlikely circumstances had to align for each individual to happen. Without all those conditions, we wouldn’t exist. And we generally accept that everything that happens is conditional, or else why would we bother trying to explain or predict anything? Short of simulating every possible scenario and testing whether unconditional love or unconditional anything still exists, it’s impossible to know whether something is “unconditional” or “true for more conditions than usual.”
Second, something unconditional is unearned, and a lot of times the weight of that undeservedness makes unconditional love or unconditional anything else (assuming those things can exist) less desirable than their conditional, earned counterparts. Of course, people accept undeserved gifts and circumstances all the time, but I’d bet that in most cases we either rationalize and say we do deserve these things, or we feel a bit guilty if we accept that we don’t.
I have to think that there is an enormous amount of fear in love. We value love so highly, and are so unsure that we deserve it, that we’re always in fear of its lack. And precisely because of this is love so powerful: only if we recognize its potential impermanence and our personal role in its expression can we appreciate it.