(apologies to George Thorogood and the Destroyers)
Friends recently related a story about visiting a college campus here in central Texas. They ran across a guy preaching. The preacher railed against everyone there, out to save their souls by telling them how horrible they were, how God was against them, how they were going to hell. Oddly enough, he wasn't winning any converts that day.
My friends hollered in response, telling the crowd that God actually loved them. Finally, one of them couldn't stand it any longer. He ran over, jumped up on whatever the preacher was standing on, and just hugged him, telling him God loved him. After a moment, the guy pushed my friend away, furiously proclaiming, "How do I know you aren't a homosexual?"
Leaving aside numerous other issues we could discuss here, one thing that struck me was the preacher's fear. I don't know if he was afraid merely of being tainted by association, or if he was afraid of actually getting a demon if someone "unclean" hugged him, or what. The point is simply that he was afraid.
What's to fear? This man had apparently memorized quite a bit of the Bible. How is it that he didn't remember, or couldn't apply, 1 John, 4/4 ("Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.")? Or Luke 10/17 ("Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!")?
For that matter, had he recognized his own fear, an obvious, pertinent verse provides the antidote. Back to 1 Jn (4/18): "Perfect love casts out fear." It's even better in context (4/16-18): "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 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." (NIV)
Why did Jesus come live among us, die on the cross, and return from the grave? Because "God so loved the world." (Jn 3/16). Jesus hung out with sinners all the time- thieves, hookers, those who cheated on their spouses, tax collectors, pagans in the occupying army, all sorts of people. He didn't fear them. He wasn't afraid of being tainted, or of demons (just ask that guy who used to live in the graveyard (with hundreds or thousands of demons) until he met Jesus!) or even the biggest, baddest demon of all, whom Jesus faced down in the desert after not eating anything for 40 days (Mt 4/1-11).
As far as I can tell, the only thing Jesus might have feared was the cross. At the very least, he would have preferred to avoid it (who wouldn't?) But he refused to be ruled by fear. He went. He conquered. He conquered death, kicked its nasty little butt, and rose from the dead, leading the way for all who follow him to do the same.
What do you fear? Who do you fear? Why? If you are a Christian, you have no reason to fear. Let God's love come in like a flood, and chase the fears away. Let fear be the one to live in fear, fleeing for its very life from the presence of the Living God in you. For you are made in his image, you are filled with his spirit. If God looks at you and sees Jesus, if we are becoming like Christ, then the demons should fear us, not the other way around.
This applies to all fears, real or imagined, public and secret-- outright fear, insecurities, fears of not being good enough, phobias, anxieties-- but especially fear of what others will think, of being tainted, or of anything else that keeps you from loving every person you come in contact with. No matter who or what you think they are. For they, too, were made in the image of God, and he loves them as he loves you.
You can love them, or you can fear them. But if you love God then fearing men, fearing guilt by association, fearing demons jumping on you really isn't an option. Love is the only option available.
Why on Earth would we want another option, anyway?