January 24, 2024

Mark 5:1-20

Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.

Mark 5:19

The tradition I grew up in had a reputation of leaning toward legalism, or reducing a relationship with God to a long list of rules and regulations. Alcohol and tobacco were off-limits, as well as mixed bathing, dancing, and attending the cinema. Technically, only those first two remained in the manual by the time I came along, but the others were still considered commandments by some individuals. When I challenged a church leader to explain to me why watching a “G” rated movie at the theater was wrong he said it was because paying to see that particular movie was supporting an institution that also showed movies that were very inappropriate. Many of the folks who felt this way didn’t see how the same argument applied to renting videos from the local Blockbuster. Thankfully, my parents recognized the inconsistency of this logic and allowed us to go to the movie theater.

So what does any of this have to do with Jesus’ healing of the demon-possessed man in Mark 4:1-20? It came to mind when I was reflecting on the reaction of the pig herders to Jesus’ miracle; they asked him to leave. Why did they do that? I suppose fear could have had something to do with it—watching a herd of some 2,000 pigs suddenly stampede into the sea and drown must have made quite an impression—but I think it was more than that. A herd this size would have been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s currency. More than fear, I think these pig herders were concerned about the economic impact of what Jesus had done. It was as if they cared more about their pigs than this man who was in bondage to evil spirits. In keeping with the story and the way pigs signified uncleanliness to Mark’s Jewish audience, we could say that these men are an example of someone who profited from sin, and were willing to accept the collateral damage that came along with it, which this demon possessed man was an example of.

Maybe we ought to think more about who is hurt by the things we make money from? Or maybe we ought to think more about supporting businesses and organizations that profit from things that cause people harm, from things that would be considered unclean by Jesus? It has been my experience that rules become legalistic when the reason they were instituted in the first place is forgotten and the rule is only followed for its own sake. I think the rule against going to movie theaters was meant to help people guard their hearts and minds from the evil that is in the world, which sounds like a pretty good reason. What this rule would look like today is hard to imagine, given the many avenues available to us in which ungodly media can enter into our homes and our hearts. Even so, I believe it’s worth thinking and praying about. When Jesus begins the work of cleaning up our lives and casting out our demons, we don’t want him to leave, do we? We certainly don’t want to sacrifice our freedom or the freedom of somebody else because we benefit in some way from something that keeps anyone in bondage or that deprives them of the abundant life Jesus wants to give them.

Brick Church

Our congregation was founded in central North Carolina over 275 years ago by immigrants from Germany. Since then faithful people have been gathering here to worship and glorify God. Thanks for visiting our website, and we hope you’ll visit Brick Church this Sunday.
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