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April 2017 Issue

The Gift of Intercession

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Question & Answer

I have a close family member (not a spouse) who has treated me badly most of my life, making me feel inadequate, unloved, and insecure. It took me years to work through the damage and come to forgiveness and letting go of the hurt. The person who hurt me has never admitted wrong even when confronted. In fact, she has suggested it was my problem. I accepted this and tried for a while to stay in touch, but I am becoming reluctant to take what feels like abuse. What is the Christian thing to do?
This is one of those heartbreaking situations that are too much a part of our fallen existence. One of the worst things sin does to the spirit is to harden it, making someone unable to hear the truth (see Zech. 7:12; Matt. 13:15). First of all, that you have worked through your injuries and come to forgiveness of the offender is the grace of God at work in your life. I also respect your tenacity about the relationship. A time comes to walk away, however, not as a way to be manipulative but in order to hold her accountable for her behavior. Your sincere forgiveness of this family member does not require you to excuse bad behavior. You do not have to tolerate sin or soothe it by a false acceptance. That is participating in deception. Although you might choose to stay away from this person, do continue to pray for her, asking God to bring truth into her life in a way that will reach her.
Reading through the New Testament, I came to the story of the demon-possessed man of the Gerasenes told in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. I thought it was a really powerful story, but I wondered about a couple of things. Why did the demons ask to be sent into the pigs, and why did Jesus allow the demons to go into the pigs? Could He not just have destroyed them?

The details you note have often been seen as a controversial part of the narrative. In response to your first question, several possibilities exist. The demons, who can do nothing without God’s permission, know they have been bested (see Mark 5:13). Perhaps they asked to be put into the pigs so they would have a bodily home for their evil activity and avoid being sent into the Abyss (place of torment). Or, perhaps, they wanted to continue their destruction, in the case of the pigs, knowing that would make trouble for Jesus. Demons are always bent on creating chaos.

The greater question is, as you note, why Jesus assented to this plan. After all, it does involve destruction of property and the livelihood of the pigs’ owners. Here is where we see the love of God for individuals. We have to remember that the point of the story is not to destroy the demons but to deliver the demonized man from their power (Mark 5:19–10; Luke 8:39). As one commentator has noted, by sending the demons into the pigs, Jesus was giving proof that the demons had left the man, which was a profound gesture of mercy. When the people in the area saw those pig corpses floating in the lake and the man clothed and sane, no one could deny what had happened. More significantly, the man who was delivered, in the most dramatic deliverance given us in Scripture, would know that those demons were gone for good and feel supreme relief.

I am in leadership in a church where one of my colleagues is not fulfilling the responsibilities of his job description. He is often late, takes long breaks, shifts some of his work onto others, and is casual about his teaching assignments. He is, however, very likeable, talking his way out of trouble with his superiors. I care about him and feel as though he needs accountability to grow. Others seem to avoid the problem, suggesting that we need to mind our own business. Who is right?

Many years ago, psychologist Dan Kiley wrote The Peter Pan Syndrome, referring to the famous 1928 story Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Kiley argues that Peter Pan symbolizes the essence of youthfulness, and we are drawn to him. But we must consider why Peter Pan wanted to stay young.He was, says Kiley, avoiding growing up,a condition whose symptoms include procrastination, emotional paralysis, and low self-worth, which lead to magical thinking and irresponsibility. Kileycontends we need to intervene in cases like this for the sake of all involved.

From a biblical perspective, anything affecting one part of the body of Christ affects the other parts. To ignore an irresponsible person is to be compliciit neglecting the well-being of a fellow believer. Everyone may be too carefully minding his or her own business instead of minding the business of the church, the body of Christ. We are called in Christian community to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. “Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in a sin,—you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and—in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1–2). This is the full picture: gentle restoration of the offender by those who are spiritually mature and self-aware.

By Rosalie de Rosset, Professor of English, Homiletics, and Literature

Rosalie de Rosset has been teaching at Moody Bible Institute in the Communications Department for over four decades.  She is also the co-host for Midday Connection’s on-air book club and occasionally is featured on other radio programs. She is a speaker and writer and lives on the northside of Chicago, a city she enjoys for its natural beauty and multi-faceted art offerings.

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