Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Missional Jesus 9

posted by xscot mcknight

Missional Jesus attracts crowds, summons people to follow him, extends mercy and healing to anyone with faith — sometimes when that faith is second-hand — and now manifests that his missional is loaded with power.
Nothing is as foreign to most of religion today as demons. Bultmann once said no one today believes in the radio and in the NT world of spirits and demons. The problem is today that more and more not only believe in the reality of a spirit-world but know that the spirit-world of evil has infected the systems of this world to create systemic injustice. Some may want to narrow it to systemic injustice (and a good thinker on this theme is Walter Wink), but today one must grapple with at least this much. Yet others, at least ever since M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie, have learned to reckon with the reality of spirits infecting the soul of individual humans. So, for such folks, the following story of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, we’ve got a recognizable and resonating text.
1. Missional Jesus confronts the evil at home in persons ravaged by evil spirits. This man has become uncontrollable and lived — appropriately enough — among the dead. Further, this man’s symptom was self-destruction.
2. The evil world recognizes missional Jesus as a threat of power.
3. Missional Jesus’ power is intimidating and awe-inspiring, but it doesn’t mean everyone who perceives turns into a follower of Jesus.
4. Missional Jesus summons those released from evil to witness to the mercy he [the Lord] has shown them.
5. Missional Jesus knows his mission is a spiritual battle.
1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon?possessed man–and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon?possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.



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Jennifer

posted June 28, 2007 at 1:17 am


Scot (or maybe Kris, if you’re reading along),
Do you think demons of the New Testament world are the mental illnesses of our world today?



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Mariam

posted June 28, 2007 at 2:26 am


There were times when my daughter was very ill that I said, only half in jest, that what she need was an exorcist rather than a counsellor. My beautiful, loving, kind and talented girl seemed to be possessed with a self-destructiveness that hated her and would never give her rest and yet there was still a part of her struggling desperately to survive. I have wished so many times that I could somehow gift to her the grace and peace of God but she will have to find God in her own way, and I pray continually that she does.
There are a lot of mental illnesses that are caused by chemical imbalances but I believe that underlying many of those diagnosed with depression/anxiety/neurosis is a profound spiritual illness and hunger. An interest of mine is how mental illness can be ameliorated by spiritual practises – there is certainly some evidence that it can be.



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Diane

posted June 28, 2007 at 7:25 am


Mariam,
I feel for you and your daughter and hope and pray that she can find her way to spiritual comfort and wholeness.
One pastor said to me once: People came to Jesus in droves not to be saved but to be healed. Jesus was primarily a healer.
There is apparently a huge amount of evidence since the 1990s that spiritual practices ameliorate mental and physical ailments: about 15,000 peer reviewed studies, over 90 percent of them “pro,” I believe.



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Diane

posted June 28, 2007 at 7:30 am


I do believe in spiritual opposition and believe it penetrates the society in false ideologies of pessism, fatalism, self, “realism” … This seems so obvious but at the same time we often seem oblvious to it, which is why to be a Buddha is to wake up and to be a Christian is to be reborn. In the worldly ideology, what is truly possible here and now gets cast as a utopic dream … like happy marriage (where is where Scot’s narrative on marriage is so powerful) or walking down the street and visiting our neighbors or that we really can live on less and experience more (not less) security … We come to believe that stunted living is the only possible living and repress that spirit in our hearts saying there’s a better way …or narcotize it with drugs, alcohol, consumer goods, fantasies, affairs (We know all this) … I have seen with my own eyes that at least some mental illness is a spiritual malaise and hopelessness, the lies of the culture revealed through broken individuals. People recognize on some level that they’ve been betrayed by the world and yet they reject religion because it seems of a piece with the world … and they have nothing left.



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John Frye

posted June 28, 2007 at 8:10 am


Being a pastor of 30 years and seeing many kinds of emotional and spiritual trauma and pain in people and preaching through the Gospels, I wrestled with the complex issues of psychological and/or demonic-engendered sicknesses. “The lone sheep attracts the wolf” seems to apply in our culture of chronic loneliness and relational isolation. Does our Enemy and his powers, etc. have a field day with us? I know that a sort of “spiritual technology” has built up in some quarters regarding the practice of exorcisms. While not endorsing all that stuff, I am reluctant to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Jesus taught us a prayer that opens the window to this whole reality: “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from (the) evil (one).” We ignore demonic realities at our own peril.



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Mariam

posted June 28, 2007 at 11:58 am


Diane:
… I have seen with my own eyes that at least some mental illness is a spiritual malaise and hopelessness, the lies of the culture revealed through broken individuals. People recognize on some level that they’ve been betrayed by the world and yet they reject religion because it seems of a piece with the world … and they have nothing left.
As a child on the cusp of puberty my daughter was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a friend and neighbour, who claimed and still claims to be a Christian. One of my most painful and shameful memories is holding hands with this man around the table while he prayed for my daughter, all the while knowing while we didn’t what he had done to her. I was not a Christian at the time but I appreciated what I thought was his loving expression for our family. For my husband and son, who already had a low opinion of religion, this man’s behavior was about what they would expect from a Christian (given the publicity given to sexual abuse by priests) and a further nail in the coffin of any tolerance they might have for religion. And it is difficult certainly for my daughter to separate Christianity from the man who abused her as we didn’t and don’t have a lot of Christian friends – well none, really, as a family. Personally, I think there are many paths to God (I know this probably isn’t a popular sentiment here, but I don’t want to be dishonest) and my daughter may have to find another path – at least initially.



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Jennifer

posted June 28, 2007 at 12:35 pm


Mariam,
I am so sorry.
May the Lord be very present to your daughter as she finds her way.



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Mariam

posted June 28, 2007 at 12:35 pm


Sorry, I don’t mean to take over this thread but it is an issue which I, obviously, still grapple with. In the bible story you quoted the demons would only leave the man if they could go into something else and Jesus allowed them to go into a herd of pigs. I find it interesting that Jesus has this dialogue and negotiation with the demons – I haven’t quite figured out what that means. In the story it is not clear whether Jesus then sent the herd of pigs to their death (and along with them the demons) or whether is was some sort of self-destructive, self-hating impulse of the demons.
I talked with a friend who is a sort-of new age spiritualist healer who offered to perform a cleansing ritual for my daughter. She suggested that her abuser had left “a piece of his evil” in her and this was what was making her sick. When my daughter was at her worst she would slash herself and once when I was begging her to stop she said “I have to get the bad out of me”. I sometimes wonder whether the man’s abuse of my daughter was his misguided way of trying to get the “bad” out of him.



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Jennifer

posted June 28, 2007 at 1:13 pm


Mariam,
There is so much in this story I just dont get. I have the same questions you mentioned. Also, I wonder why Jesus didnt let the man come with him. The man begged him, and Jesus told him no.
Abuse is such a destructive thing. I’m sorry for your daughter. I pray she knows Peace.



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Diane

posted June 28, 2007 at 1:27 pm


Mariam,
While I am a committed Christian, I have seen people find peace through Islam.



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Jason Powell

posted June 28, 2007 at 2:07 pm


I don’t post much but those of you who recognize me know I’m a big fan of Greg Boyd’s work. He has a number of books that deal with the reality of evil entities who create cosmic injustice. It seems to me you really have to stretch the narrative of the NT to eliminate the reality of Satan and demons. Now Boyd is a controversial evangelical figure so let’s not debate his views here….but for some good reads on the reality of demonic influence I would highly recomend his works



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Diane

posted June 28, 2007 at 5:58 pm


Mariam,
My prayers continue to be with you and your daughter. I was blogging from work and didn’t mean to suggest Islam or anything else to you, so please forgive me. All I meant to say is that I have seen people badly hurt by Christians turn to other faiths temporarily for solace and find healing so they could return and forgive. But you and your daughter have my prayers wherever your journey takes you.



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Mariam

posted June 29, 2007 at 12:23 am


Diane
When I was first desperately seeking God I probably would have tried any religion, but I had a bit of a head start on Christianity because of my Sunday school days. I certainly take no offense at what you said. I work at a university. I probably know more practising Muslims than practising Christians and many of them are good friends and I respect their faith and beliefs. I am grateful that God led me where he did because it is right for me. I would be happy if my daughter could find a spiritual home in Christianity as well but I would not be disappointed if she found another way to God – I would be grateful. Thank you for your prayers.



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Scott Watson

posted June 29, 2007 at 7:30 am


I like this post.I don’t hear much talk of the demonic on this website. It’s very important if we are to biblical and in touch with a proper view of reality.The problem is that most of us have an unbalnced view of this subject which is reductionistic:either the demovis is like what was sees in The Exorcist,is just way of speaking of psychological/neurolgical maladies or a “symbol” for systemic evil.This says a lot about our epistemologies and our dualities.The NT and Jewish view out of which it comes out of sophisticated and comprehensive.It has personal, physical,political and institutional manifestations.The story of the story of the Gerasene demoniac has all these elements,which most people fail to hear, esp. the politcal aspect (“Legion” and an implicit critique of the Roman Imperial context).This shows an integrated worldview where the “spiritual,” physical,institutional and political realms interpenetrate one another,while there is an integrity to each.Jesus,Paul and Revelation speak of the Satanic manifested in ways of the world and common politics:love and abuse of power,wealth,human beings,self-seeking,etc.Lest one sees these things as simply a matter of social labelling for polemical purposes,Jesus himself wrestles with these things in the Temption narrative and at other junctures in his mission.And his disciples did also.And there’s not way to understnd Paul and his “theology” if we don’t understand this worldview.We have to come up to the level of the NT in these matters!



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