Is there anything we can learn from the Gerasene Demoniac? At first blush, as moderns, we can’t imagine what that might be. We think, “Neither I nor anyone I know lives among the dead. No one I know cries out in anguish day and night mauling their own bodies.” Are we sure about this?
Human beings are amazingly adaptive. They can live in palaces or even holes in the ground. Years ago I regularly encountered an old man in a wooded, hilly area where I was working. He always carried a paper sack and a hammer. He was dressed worse than any homeless person I had ever seen. I would try and speak to him, but he was either unwilling or the devil had his tongue. I later learned from a newspaper article that this man had been sleeping in a hole in the ground near my project. The only amenity of his abode was its newspaper insulation. This poor man may have been driven by demons into isolation and torment. Perhaps Legion had found its way from the pigs in our story to this Tulsa Demoniac. Instead of driving this host off a cliff, they had bullied him into digging his own grave and dying alone.
Just before my encounter with Christ in 1976, I was living alone in an apartment in an unfamiliar place among unfamiliar people. I had been living in darkness for some time and wanted desperately to be happy and free of torment. I do not mean to be melodramatic, but I was the prisoner of some very dark thoughts and behavior. I was becoming progressively bound by something I sensed was very strong and evil. I don’t know how else to describe it; I felt as though it was pulling me down into itself.
Drawing from scripture, observation, and personal experience, I don’t really think demons care if their hosts live in palaces, holes, or apartments as long as they can remain there and be left alone to torment and to preoccupy. Demons promote and feed on the decomposition of human life. Mine was becoming quite a feast.
As first-worlders, we ask, “If demons really exist, why don’t they manifest themselves as they did with the Gerasene?” Third-worlders would answer, “They still do.” The drama is unnecessary in the west. Here, demons can isolate and torment people en masse without hindrance. Modern society with its pace of life and materialism provide all the ingredients needed to fulfill their mission. Without detection, they are free to isolate, preoccupy, torment and bind.
Perhaps western society is the most nutritious diet demons have ever known. They can enjoy their occasional Gerasene feast and snack on us at will. Taking smaller bites creates a lower grade of torment, but it is still enjoyable fare because it is spread out over more souls and longer periods of time. Demons promote the grand illusion that man can liberate himself from the unseen adversary pulling him under. Westerners (contrary to our complimentary views of ourselves) may be as demonized as any culture in history.
Physical proximity to others does not address true isolation. In our culture, loneliness and tormented thoughts can be pacified with a mind-numbing array of options. These distractions aid us in avoiding the reality of our own bondage. Our affluence allows us to dive deep into our own holes and insulate them with fantasy and distraction. As we live vicariously in the illusions promoted by our culture, we separate ourselves from ourselves, others, and God. You might say, “I don’t see this at all!” Exactly. So…is it time to congratulate ourselves or the god of this world, whose mission it is to blind the minds of the unbelieving?
I have a vision of God’s kingdom. I see a day when its citizenry awakens and exposes the legions of demons feeding upon us. Light will shine into the darkness of our holes. Souls and institutions, adapted to darkness, imprisoned by pornography, philosophy, entertainment, gambling, wealth, bitterness and a legion of others, will be set free by Jesus Christ. Like the Gerasene, they will want to follow him but Jesus will say, “Stay here. Go tell the story of what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you.” And, as it was with the prisoner of the tombs, these write-offs of humanity will obey and cause their neighbors to marvel.
Father, Permit us to see the lonely isolated ones around us. May we serve to liberate them into Your life. Help us identify those who are crying out, who have adapted to their own personal hell. May Satan’s plots all backfire. May You deliver not just one or a few tormented ones but rather legions of souls who can shout from the housetops what great things you have done for them. Amen.