Staying Home to Follow Christ

Thoughts on the Gospel:    (Luke 8:26-39)   The Gerasene Demoniac

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.  As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.  When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”- for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)  Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.  Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.  Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the      surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, [39] “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

The human effort to deal with the man’s insanity and energumens and evil for that matter was to try to chain and shackle the mad man, to keep him under guard – in other words to arrest, incarcerate, and physically constrain him.  These efforts had no positive results as the demoniac was always able to escape from his guards. 

But the demons could not flee from the presence of Christ, they themselves were constrained by Him and could do only what he gave them permission to do.  When Christ appears it is not the madman who fled the human effort to control him, but the demons who fled the presence of Christ – and they did so no longer possessing a human but by spooking a herd of pigs. 

Jesus is able to speak with the demons – either they understand His language, or He speaks theirs.   The communications is very clear for all sides understand each others. 

Jesus does not restrain or constrain the demoniac in any way; rather Jesus frees the man from his enslavement to demons and to the chains of men.  Jesus uses no violence on the demoniac, or on the demons for that matter – He gives the demons permission to leave as they are requesting.  Jesus does nothing to punish the man who allowed the demons into his life.  Jesus inflicts no pain on the possessed man but restores the man to sanity, to his right mind.  

The swineherds tell the story of what happened – they witness to the miracle and power of Christ, but their witnessing does not bring the Gospel to the townspeople, just to the contrary, the people demand that Christ leave their territory.  They bound the possessed man but they expel Christ.  The possessed man runs away from them, but they send Christ away. 

The people of the territory were afraid when they saw the madman in his right mind.  That the man was now calm and sane causes the people to ask Jesus to depart from their land.  Was it xenophobia?  Were they afraid of this stranger and his strange power?  Or were they afraid of sanity – better the demons that they knew rather than the power which gives sanity which they did not know. 

They do not ask for any more miracles or demonstrations of power.  They do not thank Jesus for restoring sanity to the possessed man.   Are they afraid of the price of the Kingdom of God?  The cost for having the kingdom come to them was the loss of an entire herd of swine, which no doubt represented a small fortune.  This was economic devastation for some of them.   And it brought no joy to these people to have the Messiah come to them.  They give Jesus no chance to teach or preach, but rather want him to depart. 

Though the cured man has become a follower of Christ, Christ does not permit him to travel with Him, but rather sends the cured man back home.  It is back home, where people did not want Christ to stay, that Christ tells the man to follow Him.  Back home he is to declare what God has done for him, though the people’s reaction to the swineherds’ testimony was one of fear and rejection.   Following Christ did not mean leaving behind the people who did not believe in Him,  but rather it meant staying with the people who wanted Christ to depart from their midst.

Things That are Curious to Me

There are some things that are curious to me:

I know of many pro-life Americans who argue for the sanctity of all human life, but then favor the death penalty.  Apparently the sanctity of life does not extend to all.

I know many pro-life Christians who are not in the least troubled by the effects of poverty in the third world, or by American policies that ignore the deaths and sufferings of countless people due to poverty, disease, famine.  These same folk would argue against any form of birth control, but have no problem with the grim reaper claiming thousands of young lives due to famine or disease.

I know pro-life Christians who are not at all bothered by the numbers of Iraqi children, infants, women, seniors, who have been murdered or blown to bits as a result of the American policy in Iraq.   The sanctity of life which we insist for all American unborn apparently does not extend to Iraqis, or Iranians, or Muslims – all life is sacred, but theirs is not?

I know of anti-war people who are not pro-life, and who do not consider late term abortions to be murder.  And yet what can a late term abortion be but the slaughtering of an innocent child?  And those unfortunate babies who survive abortions only to be murdered following their live births – are not these heinous homicides against the most innocent of children?

I know anti-death penalty people who do not see abortion as a death sentence.

All of these things puzzle me.

I also am troubled by the intermixture of politics into the church that I see.  Orthodoxy certainly opposes abortion, but the Right to Life movement is a political organization which should not be endorsed by the Church.  In as much as the Right to Life movement opposes abortion, it’s goal are noble.  But it has also given its embrace to particular politics and a particular political party, which the Church should distance itself from, for no political party in America represents the interests and goals of the Orthodox Church.  Christianity is to promote its own agenda with or without the support of any government or political party.   The Right to Life movement has its own agenda and has political interests which are different from the interest of the Church – which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   Though I’ve heard some say we will prove we are a Christian nation when abortions are banned, I would point out that Muslim nations ban abortions as well.  There is nothing particularly Christian in banning abortions – that could just as easily be interpreted as being Quranic or Muslim.   Our goal is live the Gospel and to bring the Gospel to all people, not to embrace a particular political party or political agenda.  It is true that many things politicians and political parties advocate may be the very things we in the church advocate, but we need to maintain our own agenda and independence from politics and political parties.  The very point of the American constitution is to prevent any one religion from becoming the established religion and forcing its beliefs on the rest of population.  The Orthodox Church as a minority Church has benefited from this separation of state and church.  But our acceptance of this ideal cannot be only as long as we are a minority.  Our task is to proclaim the Gospel not to impose a political or legal agenda on anyone.   And let us not forget that forcing others to accept our ethics is not the same as proclaiming the Gospel or teaching the nations what Christ has commanded us.

A Proposal to Limit Abortions by Controlling the Profits

Having watched the Right to Life’s efforts to influence American elections and politicians, I would suggest an alternative strategy in dealing with abortion.  It seems that for many decades a majority of Americans have actually favored allowing a woman to choose an abortion.   I do not know the statistics or facts that might support or discredit my proposal, but here is my proposal:

I assume that abortions are offered by doctors and clinics because it is profitable to do so.  If there was no profit incentive, my guess is the abortion industry would largely disappear, because I do not believe abortions are being offered purely out of the good will of those interested in a feminist agenda.  So as a way to vastly reduce the number of abortions, accept the notion that some abortions are sought out because of dire circumstances, and completely regulate the profit/price doctors/practitioners can charge for performing abortions.  Take away the profit motive, and let abortions be legal for dire reasons.   Then any doctor/clinic/practitioner involved in abortions cannot make a profit from them and would offer them only in cases of dire need.  All of the terms in this could be defined – exactly what fee a doctor could charge (and I would even say malpractice insurance should be allowed for them) would be totally determined by law (or worse by medical insurance companies!).  This goes largely against our free market thinking, but if we want to limit the numbers of abortions, I would say take away the medical profit motive and I would predict you would see the numbers of abortions decline sharply.  Let the government set the limit that practitioners can charge for such procedures.  Doesn’t Medicare and state run workman’s compensation programs already limit what they will pay for many services?  And doctors are forced to agree to those rates.   Put abortions under that same system – have strict limits about how much a doctor can charge for these procedures.

I do assume that abortions continue to be performed because there is a profit to be made.  Why can’t we as a society limit the profits that can be made from this death industry?