Thursday, April 19, 2018

Winning a Herd of Suicidal Livestock

My wife wins things all the time. Several years ago, my wife "won" a free water analysis for our home. So she set up the time and date for the free analysis and then told me I had to be there because she was going to have to work. So, I waited around for the free water analysis person to show up and was a little surprised (though I shouldn't have been) when the free water analysis turned out to be just one more way for a salesman to get in the front door of our home. The entire purpose of the free analysis was to convince me that I needed to buy their fancy, really expensive water softener for our home. The man crunched all kinds of numbers to show me that the money I would save each month would make up for the monthly payments for the machine (though his math was a little sketchy if you ask me). And then he tried to go in for the sale. 

Honestly, the man never had to convince me that we needed a water softener. If you ever took a shower in that house you would likely have agreed we needed a water softener. But, however great their product was, it simply wasn't worth what it was going to cost us. I had to turn the man down (he really was a nice guy and it wasn't his fault that the gimmicky sales department got under my skin) and he had to drive 25 miles back into town. He was thoroughly convinced that the savings would make up for the cost, but I never was.

Mark 5 tells us a similar story of some people who decided the cost of interacting with Jesus was too high for their tastes.  As the chapter starts, Jesus disembarks from a boat ride in which he had calmed a crazy bad storm and is immediately accosted by a demon-possessed man. During a brief conversation, the Legion of demons possessing the man requests permission to enter a herd of pigs rather than be sent back to the abyss and Jesus agrees. The demons leave the man (who had been subject to their possession for years, forcing him to live in a graveyard, cutting and gashing himself with stones and apparently attacking people whenever they came near so that they repeatedly tried to chain him up before they realized that chains couldn't hold him) and the demons enter the herd of around two-thousand pigs. The pigs rush down a cliff into the sea and drown and their herders rush back to town to inform the owners (and anybody else who will listen) about Jesus and the pigs.

When the people of the town come out to see what has happened, they discover this wild, demon-possessed man fully clothed (apparently this was extremely unusual), sitting down calmly and in his right mind. Seeing the miracle that had been done in freeing the man from his possession, Jesus' power, and the cost in livestock, they began to "beg Jesus to leave their region" (Mark 5:17). Sometimes I wonder if they had a bunch of other demon-possessed people and were scared for the rest of their livestock. Whatever the reason, they saw the miracle Jesus performed in setting this man free and decided the cost was too high and sent Jesus away.

Before we lay into them too much, though, we should consider the number of times we push Jesus away because the cost is too high. How often do we shut him out because experiencing his power in our lives costs us too much -- a relationship we can't bear to let go of, a high paying job that requires us to compromise our integrity, a harmful habit that has become part of our identity, the possibility of missing out on something we've wanted for a long time? The cost of experiencing Jesus' blessings is higher than what we want to pay so we push him away. Maybe we don't send him completely away, maybe we just keep him at arm's length, letting him stay but not close enough to break through our barriers.

What cost have you been unwilling to pay to experience the power of God in your life? What has been holding you back from letting Jesus do what he wants? Is it really worth more than experiencing God's freedom-giving power in your life?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Insulting Your Dinner Host

Suggested Reading: Ephesians 3 One of the things that drove me crazy when my children were younger was how they had no shame in asking p...