15 Then they came to Jesus. They saw the man who had been controlled by many demons. He was sitting there. He was now dressed and thinking clearly. All this made the people afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told them what had happened to the man. They told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to beg Jesus to leave their area.
Mark 5:15-17 (New International Reader’s Version)
When you grow in life and people see God moving you to your next level, you’ll have those people who will say, “You’ve changed!” Usually, this is said with a hint of distaste directed at you. When I was in college, people used to say that you “broke new” on them-with the same hint of distaste. It can be irritating when you try to improve your life and live the best possible and some “so and so” hops up and makes you feel like you’ve offended them-even when you ascribe the power to God.
Today’s Scripture text is a familiar one that can answer your dilemma. It was the story of Jesus’s healing the man possessed by many demons called “Legion.” You remember, this was the cat who hung out in the graveyard naked and cut himself whilst crying day and night; he was unable to be restrained. Then Jesus cast the demons into a herd of 2000 swine, causing them to run off a cliff and into the nearby lake. Next thing, we see the man clothed and sane with Jesus. Now you’d think the people in the region would break into a praise and worship celebration at Jesus’s miracle. No, these people wanted Jesus to leave. Huh? Why?
The theory I hold to came from my Black Church professor, Rev. Carter at Seton Hall University: the man was no longer an object of ridicule. When the man was possessed, the people in the region felt superior to him and could marginalize him. Now completely whole, the man was not longer an object of ridicule; plus he was an equal to the others-a person. The man was changed and the others didn’t like it. I also would dare to add that the other people were in some way under the demons’ sway since the demons originally didn’t want to leave the region (verse 10). Now they see the man changed and moving forward in his life with God’s help, yet they seem to be stuck in their spiritual rut.
People who are stuck at a certain level in life get uncomfortable when God moves your from their level, or worse, from a lower level and puts you on a higher level-whatever it may be. You my have been ridiculed or marginalized. Or, you may have been at the same level as others stuck on stupid. Then God comes and moves you on higher. However instead of the others celebrating your change, they get upset. Some may even eject you from their circles.
However, the story had a happy ending. The man-now changed-wanted to join Jesus and his posse. However Jesus told him to go back to his people and testify to God’s goodness in his life. The man ultimately went throughout the Decapolis-or the Ten Cities- and told his story. You too will have a happy ending as you go forth and tell others about God’s goodness to you-new people who will accept what God has done for you.
Sooo….if next time some “somebody” whines “You changed!”, smile, thank them, and move on. And while you’re at it praise God!
(Image: Military Park at Dusk. Newark, NJ. 2017)