I hate this worldHe seemed to love personality tests found on the web. One writer suggested he seemed to be desperately looking for some sort of identity. I really wouldn’t know. One quiz called “What Color Is Your Heart?” gave him this response: You scored as black. You’re heart is black. You are dead inside …Another test called Which Religion Is The Right One For You said: You scored as Satanism. Your beliefs most closely resemble those of Satanism! …To be a Satanist, you don’t have to believe in Satan. Satanism generally focuses upon the spiritual advancement of the self, rather than upon submission to a deity or a set of moral codes…. The final comment from one of these self-tests he took hit me: Your life is bleak and sinister. You are prone to depression. You feel anger at the world and you feel like the victim. Everyone is out to get you. You have no problem showing your emotions, and you probably show them in a destructive way. You might have no objections to causing other people pain as you put yourself through pain. You probably cut or mutilate your body. However, deep down you are lost and crying out for help. You are a small weeping child with [a] hard exterior…
I hate the people in it
I hate the way people live
I hate god
I hate the deceivers
I hate betrayers
I hate religious zealots
I hate everything
I hate so much
How does that hit you? How does it make you react to know there are people out there who are completely wrapped up in darkness? What disturbs me is we generally never notice the darkness until it is too late. What is more disturbing is how it is so easy to ignore the less extreme forms of darkness—the socially acceptable darkness that invades our own lives. Shouldn’t we be very concerned about people so overwhelmed? Shouldn’t we take very seriously the existence of evil in this world, both extreme violence and the boring acceptable evils that dominate so many? Isn’t it part of our mission: To confront evil, real evil. and expose it to the light?
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.As I read the story some things seem to jump out at me. One was how often the concepts of uncleanness cropped up. Mark is pointing to someone who is ultimate in defilement. He lives in Gentile country, lives in the tombs, lives by pigs, possessed by unclean spirits. This is someone who has lost all control. It is what AA and NA mean when they say: “we are powerless and our lives have become completely unmanageable.” Notice, too, the goal of the forces controlling him: to destroy. Satan ultimately seeks to destroy everything which delights God: beauty, nature, dignity—most especially Satan seeks to destroy our humanity. One writer talked of how Satan wishes to depersonalize us—to erase our face. I was struck by that analogy when reading a post about Kimveer Gill. The blogger said: It’s hard to imagine how he could look an innocent stranger in the eye and pull the trigger without any hesitation or remorse. I suppose he learned first hand how not to see their face.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" 8For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"
Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
That’s the nature of evil. It is Satan’s goal: to dehumanize us. That’s what sin is all about, isn’t it? When people get caught up in affairs, abuse, drugs, hatred, greed and self-centeredness they rarely recognize the ultimate end: destruction of what is beautiful. Destruction of who we are meant to be. Theologian N. T. Wright put it well when he defined sin as the failure to be human.
Something else from this story hit me: the fact people seem to be able to put up with evil but are frightened by the power and presence of God! As a kid I saw first hand what it was like for a church to split over this sort of thing. Our little church of eighty people started busing in children and inviting their parents. In one year we baptized seven adults as a direct result. I remember one night how an old man in a racist rant condemned the efforts. Twenty people ended up rebelling against the leadership’s attempt to touch broken lives. The church split over who should be loved by God.
Maybe it is easier to put up with evil than to face change. Maybe I fear this kind of power because now I can’t point my finger at the familiar scapegoat. Maybe I fear this kind of power because it shines the light on my own sinfulness and failures.
But, the most important thing to jump out of this story is the obvious: Jesus has the power to free even the most hopeless case from what seeks to control and destroy. That was true for Legion and that is true for us. Jesus has power over the spiritual forces of darkness. He is in control. He defeats Satan—and he will not let the one who comes to him be overwhelmed as long as he trusts. And that’s good news. It’s good news for those who seem engulfed in darkness. It’s good news for those of us who are smothered by the banality of mediocre sin. Jesus drives out that which is evil and fills us with his love.
Do you know who we are? We are people like Legion: some totally delivered from evil—some in various degrees of enslavement—some maybe even secretly enslaved. What do we do? Run to the only one who can release usfrom the darkness that threatens to destroy. Fall before him, let him deliver us—and then, when we find ourselves clothed and in our right minds—go tell how the Lord has had mercy.
May you experience deliverance. May you find freedom from the voices of doubt, accusation and condemnation. And may you not be satisfied to bask in your new-found deliverance, but go now and tell everyone how the Lord has had mercy on you.