I was really struck by a gospel passage recently, when Jesus casts the demons out of the two demoniacs who had terrorized the region of the Gadarenes, and sent them into the herd of swine, who promptly ran down the cliff and drowned in the sea. The townspeople then begged him to leave their town.
Kind of perplexing. These two demoniacs, (aka possessed individuals), the passage says, were so savage that no one could travel by that road. The swineherds who witnessed the incident came to town and reported what had happened, “including what happened to the demoniacs.”
Did you catch that? Including what happened to the demoniacs—you know the possessed souls who were set free. Instead of seeing it as a good thing and wanting Jesus to stay, they begged Him to leave. Now obviously there was a financial consideration here—a large herd of swine were lost. So, they would rather just avoid the road and allow the savagery to flourish than to risk financial loss. Sometimes the familiar is the most comfortable thing, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
But doesn’t that describe many of us today? How much evil are we willing to tolerate to maintain our comforts, our financial stability, our relationships? When evil only happens in the other part of town, we can feel immune to it—for a time. But sadly, we’ve seen the incremental increase in evil and the acceptance of it, and we’ve seen it infiltrate even the good parts of town. Thanks to the internet, it’s come right into our homes. But standing up to it may cost us.
On a microcosmic level, we need to start with ourselves and look within. How much sin or vice are you actually comfortable with? You may think you’re zero tolerance but most of us are not.
“It’s just a little gossip.”
“It’s not as immodest as her outfit.”
“I’m only flirting and kidding around.”
“That movie was really good despite all the bad language and sexual immorality—it had a good plot.”
“Yeah, we’re living together but we’re really committed.”
“So, they’re having sex—at least she didn’t get pregnant.”
“Yeah, I use bad language but at least I don’t use the F-word.”
We rationalize…we tell rational lies.
So how do we actually set about changing this sad and sorry world of ours? How do we restore our families? It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick—but it can be done.
Attachments and Blind Spots
First, try to recognize your own attachments and blind spots. Take the time to truly think what our Loving Father in heaven feels about the things you’re doing or allowing that truly wound and offend Him. What are you reluctant to give up, that you really know you should? If you’re stumped, ask a close friend or family member—and gird your loins to hear their answers. It’s not easy to hear criticism. We quite naturally recoil, but if you can bear it, it will be a great blessing.
Cast a Vision
What would you like the world, your world, to look like? Perhaps you reminisce about the good old days when everything was closed on Sundays and the day was special. Make that your reality. It may seem simplistic, but honoring the sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments—and one that is ignored by most people, including Catholics these days. Maybe you can stand up to the coach and refuse to let your kids play on Sunday mornings. Invite family over for Sunday dinner. Plan a picnic or, (and this may seem totally radical), actually rest. That’s truly a lost art.
Take it to Prayer
If God wants you to know something He will reveal it, but you have to cultivate the ears to hear and that comes through prayer- an opening of our hearts, our minds and our souls to our loving Lord. If that scares you, then you need to reevaluate your image of God. He is gentle. He is kind. He is patient. He understands you better than you understand yourself. Sometimes we have to ask for the desire to desire to know Him and to hear His voice. He will always speak truth, but always gently.
Get in the Fast Lane
In the gospel of Mark, 9:29, after Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit of the boy unable to speak, the disciples ask Him why they were unable to do that. He replied that “This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting”. Note: Current translations left off the part about fasting…but in the original text it was there.
Fasting puts power into our prayers. If the cross is the means to our salvation, sufferings united to that cross are powerful. Offering up those sufferings we do not choose, in union with the cross, has great merit. Fasting, (which can take many forms), that we do on a voluntary basis transforms us and adds potency to our prayers. After all, the devil wants us ruled by our passions. Taking control of those passions by voluntary self-denial, strengthens us against attack, and weakens those demons that come against us, and our society. If you can’t do an actual food fast, consider giving something up, like coffee or dessert, or social media. You get the picture. We need to fortify ourselves to stay strong in battle, and fasting is the means to do that.
Pick a Fight
What cause captures your heart? What do you find yourself most angry about as you look around this broken world? Take action. Get involved with your local school board, (you don’t have to have children in school). Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center. Write letters or start petitions. Raise awareness about human trafficking. Work at a food pantry. Organize a rally.
The point is to do something. It may feel like tossing a pebble into a lake, but many pebbles can make some very big ripples. We can only do our small part…and ultimately only God can put it all right.
Jesus, with one word, can cast out the demons that afflict our society, but He won’t violate our free will if we insist on keeping them. We have to decide what matters most.
Are we the townspeople begging Jesus to leave?
Just how important are your swine?
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