Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Demon-Possessed Man: Part 4 - Impure

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For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains... - Luke 8:29

It's interesting to me that most Bibles translate this word as "impure."  I'm not going to go off and do a word study here.  Don't worry.  I've never looked at this passage in Greek, and, therefore, have never even begun to analyze if that's a good translation of the word or not.  But I do know that impure/unclean is the vast preference of translation, leaving only three that I found with "evil" as the translation, one "vile" and one "foul" (the latter two, I found later to be closer synonyms to impure than evil).  I think it warrants a pause there that most people agree that Luke did not refer to Legion as evil, but rather impure.  It makes a big difference.

I think we can all agree on things that come from evil.

The employ of child soldiers comes from evil.
School shootings come from evil.
Death camps come from evil.
Serial killings come from evil.
Genocide comes from evil.
Slander comes from evil.
Torture comes from evil.
Abuse comes from evil.
Rape comes from evil.

These are all decently straight forward.  I've left some off the list on account of thinking they may be more accurately traced to selfishness or fear... which is another post for another day.  I think we all have taken time to wonder if the people who committed such atrocities were demon-possessed.  But Luke seems to hint here that "evil" isn't the usual M.O. of demons.  (After all, Legion is called Legion on the claim that it is not just one demon but many.)  Rather, Luke appears to be indicating that the impure is a more accurate indicator of possession.

What if I were to make a list of things rooted in impurity?

Just for kicks, I went to my favorite thesaurus and looked up the word "impure."  This is what I found:
admixed, adulterated, alloyed, carnal, coarse,common, contaminated, corrupt, debased, defiled,desecrated, diluted, dirty, doctored, filthy, foul,gross*, grubby, immodest, immoral, indecent,infected, lewd, nasty, not pure, obscene, polluted,profaned, smutty, squalid, sullied, tainted,unchaste, unclean, unrefined, unwholesome, vile,vitiated, weighted, wicked
I've highlighted a couple of those in bold, hoping to attract your attention with them, whereas I want to focus in on two of those words myself.  If Luke is suggesting that it is demonic influence that brings about the impure, then it would indicate that he is suggesting in turn that that which is common, that which is diluted (read: watered-down) is based upon the demonic.  As followers of G-d, we are called to be set apart from the world, to be uncommon, to be concentrated in Him.

As I type this, I can't help but think about the orange juice my mom used to keep in the fridge at all times when I was little.  She's one of the few people I know that would make juice from concentrate; perhaps that's why that word always triggers the image of orange juice for me.  I remember one time, I was convinced I had found my way around the system of healthy eating:  I would get to the juice before she added water to it.  That was sure to make it taste better. (Honestly, I didn't think it tasted all that bad to begin with, but I thought I liked sweet things back then.)  So I got the can from the freezer, let it thaw, and tried to drink it.  Oh, I was definitely in for a surprise on that one.  I could barely keep it in my mouth.  The flavor was too much.  I couldn't handle it.

These days, our society encourages us to conform, to act in ways that make the people around us more comfortable.  (Seriously, just try going out for breakfast with your friends and telling them that you don't want to eat bacon for religious reasons.)  They don't mind us following G-d, they may even like that we do, but they do mind when we "take it too far," or become "a little much."  Faith is fine, just as long as it's mixed with the amount of water recommended on the nice, neat, little package they've wrapped around us.  If I'm right, Luke is telling us that to give into this encouragement is to give into the suggestion of demons.  We are supposed to be making people uncomfortable.  We're supposed to be making them think.  We're supposed to be using our every move as a witness.  We're supposed to be presented still-concentrated.  (And we're supposed to be spit out. "You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." -Matthew 10:22)

For many of us, this becomes a burden that we are unwilling to bear.  I suppose if juice concentrates could talk, they might tell us they feel similarly.  They might call from the freezer, "HEY!  YOU!  Get that pitcher out; turn on that water!  Drink me!  I want to be a part of you, of your life!  I want you to love me!"  Or... Maybe we just call that out every day by our actions.  We want to be liked.  We want everyone to love us, and, as a result, we feel the calling to be uncommon as chains holding us back from the world that rejects all things different.  We fail to see that these "chains" are nothing more than the demarcation between G-d and the world.  We see them as chains, when, in reality, they are the hands of Christ.

I'm not the only one who feels this way, so I feel confident that I'm not writing from way off in left field (Which reminds me: Baseball Season is back!  Can I get a "Hallelujah!"?!).  C.S. Lewis was writing about this idea back before my grandparents even knew each other.  In fact, he spent the entirety of The Screwtape Letters one this subject.  Let me share one of the more quoted passages from the book, because I feel that Lewis can make my point far more eloquently than I'd ever be able to.  (In case you've never read the books, they're written from the perspective of an old demon (Screwtape) writing to his young nephew (Wormwood) on how to better further the cause of their "father below.")  It's brilliantly written:
Then Sunday morning came. The Enemy reappeared. Suddenly, he was alive. Death could not hold him. But it was even worse than that. He had become an innocent sacrifice for the sins of all those humans. He had paid their penalty. He had died in their place. Now death could not hold them either. They could be forgiven and reunited with the Enemy. They can now live forever. For all practical purposes, death has died. There has never been a more disastrous day in the history of the universe.
That, my dear Wormwood, is the whole sad truth.
There is only one thing we can do. We must redouble our efforts. We must do everything we can to make sure that these humans do not believe in Jesus. And if they do believe then make them lukewarm and too busy with other things to be of any use to him. 
We have some reason to hope. Much of the media help us. And there is such a climate of pleasure-seeking and materialism that often the Christians aren't any different from anybody else. Many Christians are uncommitted. Some are hypocrites. And we have got many sincere people convinced they are so guilty that they have no hope. Others are bitter and have closed their ears to the message of the Resurrection. Others are just self-satisfied and only care about now.
This was Lewis' message in 1942.  Can you believe that it's possible for a message from then to apply so directly, word-for-word to today's people?  What's more, John writes the same thing in Revelation 3:14-22 (ESV) 2,000 years before Lewis:
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: "The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor,blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire {I talk about this halfway through this post}, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock.If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
It is painstakingly obvious to me that we are called to a life outside of the comfort zone - both our own and that of those around us.

Do NOT misinterpret me, though.  There is a fine line to living outside of your comfort zone and alienating people from Christ.  Be passionate and undiluted, but do so with respect and love for your fellow creations of G-d.  (Note: Showing respect does not mean that you don't offend the people around you.  Christ offended people frequently - Check out Matthew 15 for starters on this - but He still had perfect Love.  Find a balance.)

I feel I could probably write more and more on this, but we'd probably start going in circles at this point, so I'm going to leave you here.  Hopefully I'll get back to you soon with more.

<<Part 3                                                                                                                              Part 5>>

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