…and he had been driven by the demon into solitary places. — Luke 8:29
The lectionary gospel reading this week is packed full of good news! It is hard to pick out just one part to write about, but something struck me for the first time. At least I think it is the first time, this is one of those passages that I’ve read over and over on different occasions. Perhaps the most memorable time I read this was as a high school student in youth group and we had to come up with a skit about the butchers trying to sell the pork from the pigs that drowned. This time I was struck by the very end of verse 29.
We don’t talk about supernatural demon possession much, it makes us pretty uncomfortable (that’s a devotional for another time, but note that Jesus and his name have complete command over demons throughout Scripture, there is no battle or struggle, but immediate obedience on the part of the demon). But we do talk about people who are “wrestling with their demons,” or other similar phrases. We are usually talking about people struggling with some sort of addiction, great despair, or doubt. One thing these folks need so desperately is community and connection to other people, yet we relegate them to groups of the similarly afflicted or, even worse, leave them to work through it on their own. The demons they face force them into solitary places, just like the man Jesus encounters.
It is a sad state of affairs for the demoniac and a sad state of affairs for our neighbors who face their own demons. We are uncomfortable with what they are facing, and when our attempts to hide away the issues under lock and key (see verse 29) fail, we give up. But following Jesus means not just caring for these, but seeking them out, even when they seem to be numbered with the dead. It is a stiff challenge, and one that we will fail sometimes. Nevertheless, this is the call of discipleship, to carry the good news into places where there seems to be no life and to people who are alone because of their demons.