Recently I heard a sermon in church about one of the many episodes in the Bible in which Jesus encountered people who were possessed by demons. Jesus cast out the demons and freed the people who were possessed from their afflictions. One can write these stories off as quaint folklore tales or maybe as representing a simplistic way to characterize the nature of sin and the way to deal with sins. They may be trivialized as being just the way that people understood or tried to explain things at the time. After all, they didn’t have Google back then; so, there was no way to look up what might be causing a behavior or an ailment or illness. Declaring that the person must be possessed by a demon was as good of an explanation as any and was widely accepted.
We tend to think of ourselves as much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the world around us these days, so demonic possession has fallen largely out of favor. The Catholic Church still has an active practice of exorcism for demonic possession, so perhaps they have not really gone away, but rather just fallen out of the vernacular. When you think about it, demonic possession is as good an explanation as any for the evil behavior that we so often hear about on the nightly news. It makes as much sense to explain the shootings, lawlessness and cruel behavior towards children and others to attribute it to the perpetrators being possessed by demons, as it is to try to figure out other reasons. Many crimes are attributed to drug addiction and the need to “feed the drug habit”. Perhaps it could be described as the need to feed the drug habit demon that is within that person. Once “cured” of that habit the ex-drug addict is said to be “clean”. Remember that people whom Jesus had cast out demons from were also said to be clean.
What of our own demons? Perhaps what we call sins are really the demons that live within us. According to Christian tradition the seven deadly sins are: envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. There is not any place in the bible where such a list exists, but each is identified somewhere in the Bible. You can Goggle “the seven deadly sins” and get references to where they appear. It is probable that all seven demons live within us to some extent. It is only through our faith that we control these demons or cast them out. Sometimes incidents in our daily lives let one of more of these demons out and they temporarily control us. News stories of “road rage” provide an example of a personal demon that took temporary control of that person.
As we struggle to understand what could have possessed someone to commit a heinous crime – shooting innocent people or molesting innocent children – we are struggling both to understand their demons and to control those demons within us that want us to hate or fear them. I have been amazed and humbled by every news story of a group that was targeted for an attack by a demon-possessed person who find it in their hearts to forgive their attacker. We don’t see those stories enough on the news. When they do appear you almost always hear that they have prayed about it and that God told them to forgive their attacker. They have cast out the demons that were within them that wanted them to hate that person and found a way to express God’s love to them.
The impact on the victims of being able to forgive is profound and in many cases, the impact on the perpetrator is equally profound. The demons of hate and prejudice and fear that were driving that person to that heinous act have been driven out by the love of God expressed through their victims. For the victims, there is no closure to the incident more powerful or more healing than the act of forgiveness. That simple act casts out that demons that were introduced by the actions of the perpetrator and allows them to go on with life “clean” and free of those demons.
So, which demons live within you? Do you harbor demons of hate or envy against someone? Perhaps you have let the demon of drug dependency or alcoholism creep into your life and that demon has opened the door for other demons to control your actions. Maybe the demon of depression has seized control of your life and cast you into a dungeon of darkness. Perhaps that little demon of self-doubt has grown into a monster inside of you and now you seek to hide from the world. Maybe you have let the demon of complacency or the distractions of the world lead you away from church and your faith.
Whichever demons may be in temporary control of your life, you need acknowledge them and then take a stand and cast them out. Taking a stand requires that you have solid footing upon which to base your life. Jesus told parables about the wise builder who built his house on rock and not on soil or sand, which might wash away in the storms of life. Your faith is the rock upon which you must stand to cast out your own personal demons and build your future. Once you have taken that stand and cast out your demons, you can live a “clean” life, free of the demons that sought to drag you down or hold you back.
So, I ask you; which demons live within you? Pray today that God help you cast them out, so that you can be clean.