When a defiling evil spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn't find anyone, it says, 'I'll go back to my old haunt.' On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse off than if he'd never gotten cleaned up in the first place.
"That's what this generation is like: You may think you have cleaned out the junk from your lives and gotten ready for God, but you weren't hospitable to my kingdom message, and now all the devils are moving back in." The Message.
Yesterday was a difficult day. The news cycles of the past few days have focused on the reports that our national leaders are pursuing a war with Iran. One report included a discussion of what superior weapons might be used so that US troops would not have to be directly involved. The discussion was obviously referencing nuclear arms. Demons. We seem to be welcoming demons. Yesterday's difficulty was compounded because, lately, I have struggled with frequent images of an angry Jesus. In my reading of scripture, I find myself more aware of his frustration, his anger, his rebukes. And this passage did not help. Jesus may or may not be angry as he confronts "this wicked generation," but the rebuke is pointed: this generation is allowing all the devils to move back in, welcoming demons, wandering devils looking for those who will let them in.
Too often, I dismiss the challenge in the difficult passages by simply passing over them as directed at others, at those who have totally rejected God's call. However, that is a dangerous avoidance of the unflattering image in the mirror. The passage is a strong indictment of our propensity to strive to get our lives in order, to clean out the "junk," without filling the cleaned-out space with something of utmost value. We may clean out the house but never secure the door or guard the entrance by accepting God's message and living out our faith. And the devils like that void. They will fill the emptiness. They'll move back in, as Jesus says, in greater numbers than before.
We are being called. We are being reminded by Jesus' words, that with God's help we can become and live as the people we were meant to be: his servants in a hurting world. But we cannot do that while welcoming demons into our lives.
Dear God, help us to keep steadfast in our journey from darkness to light. Pour out your love on us and create clean hearts within us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may stand firm against the devils that constantly try to enter our life. Amen.