What then do we say about him who has begun to fear the day of judgment? If love were perfected in him, he would not fear. For perfect love would make perfect justice and he would not have a reason to fear; rather, he would have a reason to desire that iniquity pass away and the kingdom of God come.
Therefore “fear is not in love”. But in what love. Not in love begun. In what then? “But perfect love,” he says, “casts out fear.” Therefore, let fear begin because “the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” (Sir 1:16) Fear, as it were, prepares a place for love. But when love has begun to dwell in it, fear that has prepared the place for it is driven out. For the one increases as much as the other decreases, and as much as the one becomes internal, fear is driven out. Greater love, less fear; less love, greater fear.
But if no fear, there is no way by which love may enter. As we see that the thread is led in by means of a bristle lead line when something is sewn – the bristle lead line enters first, but unless it should go out, the thread does not follow – so fear first occupies the mind, but fear does not remain there because it entered for the very reason that it might lead in love. Once freedom from anxiety has been effected in the mind, what a joy we have either in this world or in the world to come. And in this world who will harm us [who are] filled with love? See how the Apostle exults over his very love. “Who,” he says, “will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation? Or distress? Or persecution? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or the sword?” (Rom 8) And Peter says, “And who can harm you if you are zealous of the good? ” (1 Pet 3).
“Fear is not in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment” . Consciousness of sins torments the heart; justification has not yet happened. There is something there that titillates, that pricks. And so what does it say in the psalm about this very perfection of justice? “You have turned my mourning into joy for me; You have cut my sackcloth; you have girded me with joy, so that my glory may sing to you and I may not be pricked.” (Ps 29). What is “I may not be pricked”? There may be nothing to goad my conscience. Fear goads. But do not fear; love enters that heals what fear wounds. Fear of God wounds in the same way as does the physician’s scalpel; it removes the purulence and yet seems, as it were, to increase the size of the wound. Look, when the purulence was in the body, the wound was smaller but dangerous; the physician’s scalpel comes into use; that wound hurts less than it hurts now when it is being cut. It hurts more when it is being cured than if it were not cured, but with the application of medicine it hurts more for the very purpose that when health follows it may never hurt. Therefore, let fear occupy your heart that it may lead in love; let the scar follow upon the physician’s scalpel. Such is this Physician that not even scars appear: only you, submit yourself to his hand. For if you are without fear, you will not be able to be justified. The statement has been expressed from the Scriptures: “For he who is without fear will not be able to be justified.” (Sir 1:28). Therefore, there is need that fear enter first, through which love may come. Fear is the medication, love is health. “But he who fears is not perfected in love.” Why? “Because fear has torment,” as the cutting of the physician has torment.