Do you believe there are actual demons that lurk around the corner just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting people and take over their lives? In spite of what seems to be a current fascination with zombies, vampires and other scary creatures I’m not certain most of us are really comfortable with the idea of actual demons possessing a person and causing them to act out. Maybe that’s why we consign such ideas to the realm of fiction. That way we can keep telling ourselves and others not to worry because demons are really just make believe.
The Gospel writers certainly thought differently and at the beginning of Mark’s gospel Jesus keeps encountering demons. In the lectionary reading for Sunday Jan 28 (Mark 1:21-28) a demon confronts Jesus in the synagogue while he is teaching and the demon wants to know just why Jesus has come. “Have you come to destroy us? I know you are the Holy One of God” the demon cries. Isn’t it odd how the demon understands who Jesus is more than all the others gathered in the synagogue that day? Jesus then drives the unclean spirit out of the man whose life the demon had taken over. People were amazed the gospel says and one might safely assume the most amazed of all would be the man just delivered from the grip of evil. Now he was free to really live.
Whether or not one believes in actual demons most of us can probably identify with something in our lives that holds us back from fulfilling our full potential. Some of us may struggle with an addiction. Some of us may struggle with crippling doubt or fear. In those times it may seem we do encounter a personal demon. At the same time I believe there are even stronger forces that can bind not just one person but instead large groups of people. These forces would be the ones of poverty, injustice, and violence to name just a few. Evil can be found on both a personal and corporate level.
“Have you come to destroy us?” the demon asks Jesus and Jesus answers by driving the demon away. No one I know of can do all that Jesus did but it does occur to me that if we are to follow Jesus the fight against the demons of this world does mean recognizing they are to be found both on a personal level and on a corporate level. We can support others in their personal struggles and we can work to fight the larger issues of poverty and injustice. I believe when we do that we truly are Empowering Lives.