To those of us who spent some time in Sunday School growing up, today’s gospel lesson from the Daily Office (Luke 8:26-39) is probably familiar. Jesus and his disciples sail across the lake from Galilee, and when they disembark they’re met by a demon-possessed man. The demons inhabiting the man recognize Jesus and his healing intentions; so they beg not to be sent into the Abyss but to be cast into a nearby herd of pigs instead. Jesus allows this, at which point the pigs promptly run down a steep bank into the lake and are drowned. Not surprisingly, the men tending the pigs are somewhat spooked by this, so they go off to spread the news. And when others reach the scene, they find the formerly possessed man dressed and sitting at Jesus’ feet. Fearing this unusual display of power, they ask Jesus to leave.
But here’s where things get interesting. Luke tells us that “the man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with Jesus” (v. 38). In other words, he asks to become a follower. And isn’t this exactly what we’re supposed to do: “to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily, and follow”? But Jesus, the gospel reports, sent him away and told him, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (v. 39).
Now, this could be a case in which Jesus is seeking to provide not only physical and spiritual healing but relational healing as well. After all, the story reports that as a result of this demon possession, this man had often been chained hand and foot and kept under guard – and that the demon had driven him into solitary places. Perhaps Jesus recognizes that this man – now that he’s free – needs to be reconnected with family, friends and community in order for his healing to be complete.
But then again, perhaps we should take this as evidence that the call of Christ in each life is unique. In recent years, there have been any number of books that have suggested – both subtly and not-so-subtly – that if we truly love Jesus, we’ll do something “radical” and walk away from all that’s familiar in order to follow Him. And while there can be value in such dramatic steps, the real issue, it seems, is not how radical we can be – but how faithful we can be to what Jesus commands.
Will we listen to the unique call of Christ in our lives? And as it becomes clear, will we eagerly rush to do His will?
It’s interesting that the Daily Office pairs this gospel story with a reading from Romans that says this:
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:1-4)
Today, may we resist the urge to judge the call of another – and choose instead to listen intently for the way in which our Master is calling us.