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. We love because he first loved us.I John 4:10-11 (NIV)
Somewhere in my childhood, I learned about the meaning of retaliation. If I hurt someone else, then they will hurt me. And it might come when I least expect it. They could hold this hurt over me until they deemed that I had paid for it.
So, I embraced it for myself. Retaliation seemed like a way to hurt someone else so they would never hurt me again. Though, really, it didn’t seem like the hurt ever really stopped, but instead just kept cycling.
This verse is saying that retaliation, or punishment, is sourced from fear. That fear I knew well. But there is a perfect love can drive out that fear, leaving forgiveness. It ends the cycle.
And this love that enables me to forgive others doesn’t come from being a really awesome person. In fact, I doubt I could really forgive well without the Holy Spirit guiding me through it. It is the love of Christ that teaches us how to forgive, a love that pours into our spirit so that it can overflow into the people around us. The ones who need to experience compassion, forgiveness, and a respite from fear so they can be freed from their own cycle of pain, retaliation, and punishment.