“Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the region of the Gerasenes. As soon as He got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met Him. He lived in the tombs. No one was able to restrain him anymore– even with chains– because he often had been bound with shackles and chains but had napped off the chains and shashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. And always, night and day, he was crying out among the tombs and in the mountains and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before Him. And he cried out with a loud voice, ‘What do you have to do with me, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!’ For He told him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ ‘What is your name?’ He asked him. ‘My name is Legion,’ he answered Him, ‘because we are many.’ And he kept begging Him not to send them out of the region. Now a large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. The demons begged Him, ‘Send us to the pigs, so we may enter them.’ And He gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs, and the herd of about 2,000 rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there. The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and countryside and people went to see what happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon- possessed by the legion, sitting there; dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. The eyewitnesses described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and (told) about the pigs. Then they began to beg Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed kept begging him to be with Him. But, He would not let him; instead, He told him, ‘Go back home to your own people and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.’ So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him and they were all amazed.”
~Mark 5.1-20, Holman Christian Standard Version
I cannot rush the lesson. This is what I have surmised about discipleship. Now reading Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teaching on Discipleship, the reading pace is the same as that of Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. I think that this is what the Lord is trying to teach me now. I cannot hurry the message of the Teacher. And I know this to be true but until recently, I was not aware that this was what I was doing. Sure, I sat at His feet as Mary did but in my mind, I was thinking of all things that I needed to help Martha with (Luke 10.38-42). I wasn’t taking notes; I was making a to-do list.
This teaching came to my mind yesterday as I continued to consider the mind’s service to God. How can the mind serve God when it is possessed by the ideas of others? How can we think about the goodness of God and God’s goodness in us if our thoughts are being held hostage to social prejudices and stereotypes? And there are many; perhaps, even a legion. Now, can you imagine two thousand dead pigs floating in the sea? Two thousand unclean spirits residing in the body of the man whose name had become that of those who possessed him. He could not speak for himself; instead, he took on the identity of those that tormented him. How many of the ideas of race possess us and are there occasions when they speak for us? Have we taken on the identity of this tormentor?
Jesus comes in and negotiates the deliverance of this man, an exchange: the legion of unclean spirits will leave the man if they are allowed to enter the pigs feeding on the hillside. They want to remain in the region. They begged Jesus to allow them to stay just as the people would later beg him to leave. The people had suffered a financial loss that was seemingly of more value than this one man’s deliverance. But, for Jesus, it seems like an even exchange. One thing is clear: the unclean spirits cannot stay in the Gerasean man.
And once demon-possessed, he now begs Jesus to go with Him. “Go.” “Stay.” “You have ruined our lives.” “You have changed mine.” Both sentiments expressed in the same occasion of a miraculous healing and deliverance. Such is the ministry of Jesus Christ. Even while dying on the cross, there is this spiritual divide: weeping women and Roman soldiers.
But, the man was not in his right mind. If he had been, he would not have been living among dead. Likewise, before I realized the possiblity of a race-less life, I was living among the dead and reliving the demise of countless victims of race, racism, stereotypes and prejudice. I rehearsed dead arguments, long disproven by biology, sacred scripture and reality. These thoughts did more to segregate me from others and myself than it did to bring understanding and truth.
And it hurt me. I hurt myself. I lamented my life as a socially colored “black” person as there seemed to be no way out. I was bound without having to be tied and due to the sheer volume of unclean ideas and ungodly perspectives that I had no name for, I was unable to speak for myself. I cried loudly every time an instance of socially constructed “racial” injustice was reported on the morning or evening news. I cried because I was tired of this being my truth.
Thoughts predisposed to the prejudices of race and not the sovereign will of God, I was not in my right mind and could not truly serve the Lord with it. Still, I am grateful for a Teacher who patiently exchanged my legion of prejudices for His mind (I Corinthians 2.16) and saw it as a fair exchange.