Can we be free in a world of insanity and self-destruction?
Salvation is often seen as only for eternity. But, salvation is also for today.
Let’s examine Luke 8:26-39 and Jesus saving a gentile from his insanity.
Luke 8:26 So they arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. 27 As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in the tombs outside the town. 28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. Then he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Please, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had already commanded the evil spirit to come out of him. This spirit had often taken control of the man. Even when he was placed under guard and put in chains and shackles, he simply broke them and rushed out into the wilderness, completely under the demon’s power.
30 Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons. 31 The demons kept begging Jesus not to send them into the bottomless pit. 32 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs. So Jesus gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned. 34 When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran.
35 People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 36 Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them. So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. 38 The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Does Evil Possess Us?
From the Old Testament Girgashites, Gerasa is modern Jerash in Jordan, southeast of Galilee, where Jesus found a man who had allowed evil to possess him. We have all experienced a fleeting bad idea. When wrong thoughts fester, they can turn into evil actions. Who will bring us back from the brink of destruction? Evil is a dangerous downhill path towards insanity. We witness it in public among murderous world leaders, terrorists and greedy bankers and industrialists who enthusiastically destroy their families and the environment in worship of money. Not every insane person ends up as a drooling wreck living in a graveyard. The insanity around us is widespread and varied, but there is someone who can heal it, Jesus.
Can We be Free?
Like many biblical stories, the tale of the Lunatic and the Pigs can be broken down into three similar scenes.1 We could call them the struggle, announcement and freedom. A biblical theme is liberation coming from divine resources. In the struggle between worship of dead idols and the living God, God gave Elijah victory over 450 prophets of Baal. God delivered Israel many times from her enemies. In the Gospels, we see Jesus as the deliverer from all human bondage. After deliverance came living free and that involves taking the announcement to others who are captive. As Elijah and Moses announced freedom so do all who have been set free. The free must tell others how to be free.
1Brueggemann, Walter. Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism: Living in a Three-Storied Universe. Abingdon Press. 1993.
What About the Crazy Gerasene?
We don’t often experience demons in our pristine western shopping centers like Jesus did. We isolate the mentally ill in institutions. Ancients blamed mental illness on demons. Moderns blame it on physical causes. Some modern professionals will admit that there is a mysterious and little-understood spiritual dimension to psychopathology. While some mentally ill people are diagnosed as having physically caused organic brain syndromes, others are not as easily explained by the physical alone, such as schizophrenia and psychotic disorders. Southeast of the Sea of Galilee, a mentally ill man lived in a graveyard. Jesus did not make a scientific diagnosis but asked a question, commanded the impure spirits to leave and gave them permission to enter a herd of pigs.
Is There a Spiritual Dimension in Psychotherapy?
Are Bible demon stories ancient ignorance? Carlton Cornett writes that ‘For a professional pursuit that prides itself on its uncompromising search for “the truth” of psychological functioning, psychotherapy has often gone to seemingly absurd lengths to avoid considering the possibility that the spiritual dimension deeply affects human life.’ 2 Jesus made no apologies for his dealings with a man with obvious mental problems. We would perhaps diagnose it today as dissociative identity disorder (multiple or split personality). Some experts are open to the idea of demon possession even arguing for possession syndrome as a separate category of mental illness.3 Rather than dismiss Bible stories like the Madman and the Pigs as fables, perhaps we ought to be more open-minded.
2Cornett, Carlton. The Soul of Psychotherapy: Recapturing the Spiritual Dimension in the Therapeutic Encounter. Simon and Schuster. 1998. vii.
3Spiegel, David. Dissociation: Culture, Mind, and Body. 1994. American Psychiatric Press, Inc. 131.
What about Your Story?
The story of the Crazy Man and the Swineherd is also everyone’s story. We all experience crazy times struggling against wicked forces. From the moment of conception we fight to survive against evils. Success is an up and down struggle against unyielding forces of evil that seek to possess us: steal from your sibling, lie on a test, get drunk, experiment with sex, steal from your boss or employee, lie to your clients, lust after someone else’s spouse or house and cheat your neighbor. In our struggle we have tried to do it alone and failed. Sometimes, we have asked for God’s help and in those moments, we have had a story of victory to tell to the whole world.
It’s a crazy world. To some extent the insanity of our generation has affected all of us. Jesus offers us healing and freedom from all the madness. All we need to do is ask.