When we hear stories about Jesus casting out demons, I’m not sure we know quite what to do with them. Is this possession as illustrated by Hollywood, complete with spinning heads, shaking beds, and evil voices? Or is it just an ancient way of pointing out what they did not understand – mental illness, convulsions or some other such disease? Those kinds of questions obscure two basic truths of these strange stories. First, evil exists and if we are not “possessed” by the Holy Spirit, we are likely to be possessed by something unholy. When I see a world full of violence, abuse, horrific stories of awful deeds done by humans to humans, even children, I find myself asking “What possesses people to do these things?” And there it is – something that drives us to rob life, liberty and peace from others takes our identity as holy people away. Second, fascination with what is unholy in these stories often leads us away from the central truth – God in Christ, revealed in Jesus has power to cast out the unholy and grant peace and life in its place.
“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God,” Jesus says. (Matthew 22:21) A coin became a prop in this story and it bore the image of Caesar. So, in a way, it belonged to Caesar. The question then becomes, what bears the image of God? Well, according to Genesis 1:26, we do! Imagine what the world might be like if we all gave to God what belonged to God – gave ourselves without reservation. Scripture is full of the miraculous ways God takes what we give and turns into something more than we could imagine. Remember the two fish and five loaves? Remember one human death on a cross? What if you gave to God what belonged to God?