Some people think that the opposite of love is hate. Some have said the opposite of love is apathy. While there may be some truth to both of those, the opposite of love is actually fear.
It’s interesting that when Jesus cast demons out of people or healed them of ongoing illnesses, he didn’t spend hours analyzing how they got into that condition. In Mark 5, he didn’t ask if the demon-possessed man had had an abusive childhood. They didn’t have psychiatric labels then (that we know of) like we have nowadays. Jesus simply met people where they were at and he moved them forward, often by healing, freeing, and delivering them from what was causing their suffering.
I once had a pastor who said, “God never does something just for you. What he does for you is also meant to bless and affect others.” Jesus didn’t just deliver this man for the man’s sake; an entire town had been affected by his “issues” and the entire town would later be affected by his healing. One of the most marvelous passages in the Gospels is Mark 5: “Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” This wasn’t after years of extensive therapy. This was after moments in the presence of Perfect Love.
Christ’s love is so powerful and his power so loving that all he needs to do is speak words of healing, or touch someone, or be touched, and oppression of body, mind or soul must cease and leave. This begs the question: what if we were able to love from such a place of being so grounded in God and his love that our mere presence, our mere words, our mere touch could bring healing to others? There’s nothing “mere” about any of these things.
There are people in our lives, around whom we may feel rejected, criticized, and like nothing we ever do is good enough for them. Around these, we may feel anxious, bound-up, irritated, and uneasy. We want to remove ourselves from their presence. On the other hand, there are people we are drawn toward because they exude love, acceptance, and a deep-seated joy that’s not dependent on circumstances. Their acceptance of us is not based on what we do, it’s based on who we are to them. In their presence, we feel freer, more able to be ourselves, at ease, and at home. No human can love us perfectly, but these people give us a glimpse of that perfect love that everyone longs for.
God is the only one who can love us perfectly for the simple, yet profound, reason that he is love. It is the very essence of his character and of his being. He cannot be, or do, otherwise. This is why Jesus was a magnet for the downtrodden, the discouraged, those heavy-laden with care (and he still is). These are the ones who are often most open to the slightest kindness, the gentlest touch, because when a person is wounded, the last thing they need is harshness. They need tenderness.
The man in Mark 5, prior to his deliverance, was much like the guy on the train who most people avoid—the one who is dirty, smells bad, and mumbles to himself or shouts obscenities. It is very likely fear that makes people look away—fear of being reminded of one’s own inner poverty when in the presence of outward poverty. But Jesus was afraid of no one because Jesus was the embodiment of perfect love and perfect love casts out all fear.
It is dazzling that in Mark 5:6-7 the man ran to Jesus and worshipped him before he was ever healed. The man wanted God. The demons were afraid of God. So the man was in a state of push/pull—drawn to Jesus, yet at the same time repelled by him. But once he was free, he begged to be allowed to stay with Jesus. Instead, Jesus sent the man back to his town (the very town that had alienated him) and told him to tell everyone what God had done for him, making him the first bearer of the Good News of God’s healing, freeing love in that vicinity. The man’s life was his testimony. The people had seen him before, and they saw him now, and there was no denying that the man was changed, transformed, and free due to encountering God’s perfect fear-evicting love in his Son, Jesus Christ.