If you haven’t heard of the Grant Study, you will find much material for preaching if you read this essay about it. I turned one of its points into a devotional for Our Daily Journey:
read > 1 John 4:7-21
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear (v. 18).
George Vaillant directs the Grant Study, which for more than seventy years has followed the lives of Harvard graduates to learn what makes people happy. Vaillant discovered that positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones, in part because they expose us to rejection and heartbreak. He interviewed one man who had received a box of 100 loving letters from his patients when he retired from practicing medicine. Eight years later he proudly showed the box to Vaillant and began to cry, “I don’t know what you’re going to make of this, but I’ve never read it.” Vaillant concluded, “It’s very hard for most of us to tolerate being loved.”
We need courage to open ourselves to receive love from others. Because we and they are sinful, misunderstanding and rejection is always a possibility. It’s tempting to retreat into our castle and pull up the drawbridge. There we will be safe from the dangers of heartbreak, but also we will be safe from the pleasures of love—how it feels to be fully known and embraced anyway.
What if true love is found in the very place we most deserve to be rejected? John explains, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love…that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (v. 9-10). God’s love expels fear as light scatters darkness, for “If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love” (v. 18).
The One who knows you best loves you most. You can trust the God who hung on the cross for you. Then secure in the grip of His love, you can open yourself to another. “We love each other because he loved us first” (v. 19).
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