For Sunday, May 12, 2013
Seventh Sunday of Easter
The recent Boston Marathon bombing was a jarring reminder to those of us in the U.S. that evil is real. In countries which have suffered regular atrocities, such as Israel or Russia (Beslan, Nord Ost) no such reminder is needed.
Evil can manifest itself in our day to day relationships as well. Such was the case with the Apostle Paul in Acts 16. A slave girl who practiced divination had been following Paul and his team for days. Her constant shouting was making it difficult for the team to have the meaningful conversations they sought with locals in Macedonia. Out of annoyance Paul finally addressed the issue. He knew the girl was possessed by a demon and responded by doing three things: he addressed the demon directly, invoked the name of Jesus, and commanded the demon to leave. The demon did just that, not because Paul was a specialist in exorcism, but simply because of the power of Jesus’ name.
We don’t often encounter demons in the Secular West. We would be more likely to refer this girl to a psychiatrist. Granted, mental illness is as much a reality as is demonic influence, yet we would do well to consider both in our ministries of the gospel.
I once encountered a demon-possessed girl as a missionary in Siberia. “How did you know?” you ask. I know because when I made the mistake of pronouncing the demon’s name as OHleg, a deep and very different voice came out of this diminuitive girl saying, “My name is oLEG.” As the hair stood up on the back of my neck I quickly moved my emPHAsis to the correct syllAble. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I must have missed the seminary class on casting out demons. The one thing my colleague Jan and I did right was invoking the name of Jesus. For the next week this girl was a changed person. Then she unfortunately invited oLEG to return. We never saw her again.
Evil is real. May we have the grace, wisdom, and encourage to invoke the name of Jesus in its face.