“And when [Jesus] had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an impure spirit, who lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him any longer with a chain since he had often been bound with fetters and chains, but the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. And no one had the strength to control him.” (Mark 5:2-4)
I was once in a foreign city, walking along a lonely street. Through a door across the way, a man came out. He was in a violent rage. He kept up with me as I walked. Some woman had done something, and the man was spitting out angry judgements about her and all women. Even as a man, I was scared.
We don’t talk about demon-possession any longer, except when we do. We say things like, “that man has his demons,” and everybody knows what it means.
The Gerasenes lived with such a man, and they tried to control him. Repeatedly they put him in chains, and repeatedly he tore the chains apart. He was strong and violent and terrifying.
Imagine what it would be like to live around such a man every day.
What did Jesus do differently? Did he bring a bigger chain?
No, he saw the poor man, and being unafraid, he helped him. Jesus commanded the unclean things inside the man to come out, and they came out. The man was restored first to his right mind and then to his family.
How do we imitate Jesus, cleansing ourselves and others of the unclean things that invade our hearts and minds?
I’m not talking about exorcism. There are ordinary, non-miraculous ways of freeing people from impure spirits. How can we learn these ways?
The world has its demons. Few tasks are more urgent than training ourselves to cast them out.
Let’s start with our own impure spirits.
With trust in God, with prayer and reflection, some small meaningful step is always possible.
It’s not about chains and fetters. It’s not about force and condemnation. One day, we’ll have the compassion, clarity, and power, and we will tell our impure things to leave, and they will go.