The way you hear this verse says a lot about how you view God.
1 John 4:18, “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.”
That last sentence “The one who fears is not made perfect in love” is interpreted by many of us as a criticism to ourselves and others as we question if we are made in love due to the fear that we may feel or express. That criticism, nowadays, is defined as “legalism”. It’s kind of an inner critic and if we listen to it too much, it can result in us projecting our pain onto God. We all know the voice of of our inner critic: demanding, relentless, impossible to please.
But the singular, true voice of God says this: All the work has been done. There’s nothing left for us to satisfy. There’s no earn left to acquire. We’re free to relax in that love today.
That’s the gospel, friends.