I try to be exposed to points of view other than my own, especially non-Christian ones. I can tell you this—The primary issue that produces derision and mockery is sex. Try to explain to a non-believer why you don’t believe in sex before marriage or in pornography, and you might as well start speaking Mandarin Chinese for all that they comprehend. But another thing that really sends skeptics into a tizzy is a belief in the spiritual realm. They might believe in God, and some of the rules found in the Bible are common sense to them. But if you tell them that you actually believe that there are such creatures as angels and demons, and that they have an effect on the physical world, you sound like a primitive witch doctor who’s sticking pins in a doll.
But the same Bible that tells us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again also tells us that there are spiritual entities which affect the world, and they didn’t just go away 2,000 years ago.
However, I try to keep a proper balance between extremes. I don’t attach blame for everything bad that happens to direct demonic influence. I also think that a lot of people in the “Spiritual Warfare” movement effectively relieve Christians of their responsibility to live a holy life by doing just that. If you read the N.T., however, you’ll notice that as far as practical instruction goes, Paul and the other writers spend a whole lot more time focusing on dealing with personal sin and very little time on “spiritual warfare” issues. Based on this emphasis, I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest hindrance to my spiritual growth and obedience to Christ is not Satan or some demon. It’s me.
So keeping that in mind, let’s examine this story and see what we can pull from it. Jesus encountered a poor man who was in just about as wretched a condition as you can imagine. He lived among the tombs, cutting himself and howling at night like some wild animal.
Right off the bat, before we get out of his background, I see a lesson for us. The locals’ solution was to try to chain him down. But this was their mistake: Trying to solve a spiritual problem with a physical solution. If a doctor misdiagnoses your illness, he can’t cure it. If there’s a spiritual problem, you have to attack it spiritually.
Can I be completely blunt here? Can I be brutally honest? This society, because it discounts the fact that we’re spiritual beings, immediately attacks any emotional or mental difficulty with drugs. Are there times in which that’s appropriate? I wouldn’t say never, but I would say it’s a lot rarer than some professionals would claim. Again, I need to clarify. Obviously most psychological problems are not due to demonic possession. But I'd also submit that most (almost all) problems of an emotional or psychological imbalance are because of a spiritual issue of some type.
I would also apply that to a lot of social problems like crime. No, I wouldn’t empty out the prisons. But if we attack a spiritual problem with only physical solutions, we’re never going to make any real progress.
So the man falls down before Jesus, again displaying insight into the identity of the Master which most humans lacked. Jesus cast him out of the poor man. I’d also like to point out the preferences of demons: They exist only to destroy that which God has created. If they aren’t allowed to destroy a man, they’ll destroy pigs.
So the man is cured, and what’s the reaction of the town locals? “Now our children are safe. We can walk outside at night without worrying about being attacked.” “Wow, I’m really amazed to see this poor man’s life restored to him.” No. It seems that their primary concern was the financial loss of some pigs. Caring about money more than people—sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
I’d go over the applications again, but I’d just be beating a dead horse. Whatever the Spirit’s trying to tell you, listen.
Lord Jesus, I praise you because all authority in the seen and unseen realms are under your feet. The demons tremble at the mention of your name. But I thank you that this spiritual victory of yours is also mine. As long as I’m doing things your way, I have nothing to fear.