Have you ever heard of a Rent-a-Sister program? Like a Rent-a-Car business, Rent-a-Sister is where you can rent a female person who accompanies you like a sister. The program was created in Japan to address the growing issue of men withdrawing from society and refusing to leave their rooms. They are known as Hikikomori (引きこもり). It translates to “pulling inward, being confined,” also known as “Acute Social Withdrawal” syndrome.
About a million young men have this condition in Japan. They don’t leave home. Many of them still live with their parents, but in that case, they don’t leave their bedrooms. Some of them haven’t left home for a decade. Some were violent against their parents when they persuaded them to go out. The parents in this situation would go to the Rent-a-Sister company to hire a sister for their son.
These sisters for hire are not social workers or psychologists. All they do is talk to their client like a sister for a few hours a week. They are not cheap. It costs the parents about $1,000 a month. Since they don’t see it as a mental illness, Rent-a-Sister is a great alternative to seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. In America, we might treat it as a mental health problem. That’s a different topic.
I discovered this on BBC News. As of 2019, this program has helped about 3,000 young men come out of their hiding places. When asked, they revealed they have social anxiety caused by shame, failure, confusion, rejection, fear, bullying, not fitting in, and many other reasons.
Most of us are not in such extreme conditions, but we all are on the spectrum of social anxiety and a tendency to isolate ourselves. In America, we live in comparatively spacious houses with big yards. We can isolate ourselves in the name of privacy.
Each person is different in terms of social anxiety. Some people don’t want to attend school alumni gatherings or class reunion because they don’t want to see their old classmates doing better than them. Do you have a specific social group that you avoid?
Our quality of life depends on our relationships because we are created that way. Last week, I discussed God as the author of love and healthy relationship. The Trinity reveals that God is not a lone ranger but a fellowship of love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s present mission is to restore broken relationships in this fallen world. The signs and symptoms of the fallen world is broken relationship.
Today I want to talk about the opposite spirits known as “demons.” I have never seen demons, but I have discovered that the Hebrew word Satan (sataan) is a verb made noun (gerund) meaning “to oppose,” “to entice,” or “to be in adversarial.” It’s more of behavior rather than a creature.
Since God is love and healthy relationships, Satan is the opposing force that promotes broken relationships. This force or spirit is also called the “unclean spirit,” as opposed to the “Holy Spirit,” which is the “Clean Spirit.” Sometimes they are called “demons,” “devils,” or “evil spirits.”
No matter how you call it, their job is to make you unable to relate with others. The demons instill excuses in people, giving them reasons to stay away from one another. You won’t see demons as creatures with horns and fangs, but you see them everywhere where broken relationships exist.
There is a man in the Bible who had 6000 demons or 6000 excuses to stay away from people. In fact, he lived in the tombs instead of a house. Even though this is an extreme case, it teaches us some important lessons about spirituality and how we can fall into the opposite side of love and relationships.
Mencius, the great philosopher, said that relationship is the fundamental requirement for success. If you want to succeed in life, you cannot let demons possess you and break your ability to relate. Demons are everywhere in this fallen world. If you don’t pay attention, you can easily fall into their traps and unconsciously become a recluse.
On the other hand, if you have healthy relationships, God has a mission for you to be a peacemaker, restore broken relationships, and bear witness to the joy of love and harmony. Today, we will study the story of Jesus driving out 6000 demons from a man who lost his ability to relate. So, let’s begin!
[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today is the Second Sunday after Pentecost, and the scripture lesson is from the Gospel according to Luke 8:26-39. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Lk 8:26–39).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
That is probably the longest passage on Jesus’ healing miracles in the Bible. Jesus took his disciples on vacation after some busy days of teaching and healing. Maybe Jesus wanted a break to grieve after hearing Herod had beheaded his cousin, John the Baptist. They landed in Gergasa, a gentile country of the Gerasenes. However, his vacation got disrupted as soon as they arrived there.
“As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.” (Luke 8:27).
Jesus must be passing by a graveyard outside the city, and this man came to meet him. There is no mention of how he knew him, but elsewhere in the Bible, we read about the baggers, the homeless, and the cripples living on the roadside who tend to get the news through the travelers.
This man had lost his ability to dress properly and live decently. He has lost his shame and fears, crippling his ability to relate with others. People could not even bind him with chains and shackles. It shows how powerful the demonic spirit can be. You can imagine his parents must be heartbroken.
When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (Luke 8:28-29).
The tricky part of interpreting a demoniac is you don’t know who is speaking—the person or the demons inside them. It also shows the internal struggle of this man. He wanted to be healed, but the demon inside refused to leave. Living in isolation had become his comfort zone. To become normal could be a torment for him.
He shouted at the top of his voice, asking Jesus to leave him alone. “Leave me alone!” is an expression we often hear in today’s American society. In other countries where I have lived, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Leave me alone!” because no one is alone; we are all connected.
So when someone did say, “Leave me alone!” that person is quite sick for that society. But, as society becomes more individualistic, we hear it more often. Next time when we want to say, “Leave me alone!” beware if it is the demon speaking inside because it fractures relationships and leads to isolation.
This man recognized Jesus as the “Son of the Most High God,” yet he wanted nothing to do with him. Victor Frankl, the great author and psychiatrist said that one of the problems in America is that we have a Statute of Liberty, but we don’t have a Statute of Responsibility. We prioritize freedom over duty.
Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. (Luke 8:30).
Jesus asked him his name probably wanted him to identify his parents and to remind him that he was not alone. He belonged to a family. He was responsible for his parents’ well-being, especially in the 1st-century society. It was selfish to say, “Leave me alone!” because no man is an island, and we are all connected.
He replied with the name of his problems. “Legion” is the rank of a Roman commander in charge of about 6000 soldiers. It could mean 6000 demons had possessed him or just mean “too many.” It’s like a doctor asking you, “What’s your problem?” and you say, “Too many!”
We might be able to relate to this man these days. Two years after the pandemic that isolated us, we have a war, inflation, high gas prices, weekly news of gun violence, natural disasters, and you name it. These can also be the works of demons if they break our relationships and isolate us.
What demons have possessed you? In other words, what is breaking your relationships with God and people, or what’s isolating you? This man has done right by taking the opportunity of Jesus passing by to confront his problems, even though he wasn’t sure he would like the outcome.
The first decision we must make is to lay it out in front of Jesus no matter how big, and numerous our problems are. If Jesus could drive out 6,000 demons from this man, he can surely take care of all your problems. Let Jesus negotiate with the demons. All you need to do is give it to him.
In the following few verses, Jesus negotiates with the demons for him. They went to the pigs and drowned themselves. It depicts the severity of these demons. Even the pigs couldn’t bear the pain. They all went crazy and jumped into the Sea of Galilee. Imagine the burden this man had been carrying all these years by himself.
The transformation was drastic. He was sitting at the feet of Jesus as a normal person with proper clothes and in his right mind.
Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. (Luke 8:35).
The good news was followed by a statement of fear. Maybe they were afraid because they had given up on this man as a hopeless case. They were afraid because they did not believe that some people like him could change. They were afraid because they had lost faith in miracles. It makes us think if we have given up on certain people in our lives. It must be shocking to realize nobody is a lost cause in Jesus’ eyes. He is determined to mend your relationships.
Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. (Luke 8:37).
Jesus’ vacation was cut short because they feared God’s presence. Instead of celebrating the healing of a hopeless man, they feared the healer who could restore them to healthy relationships. Maybe they had lost hope in themselves.
What’s the difference between them and the demons that didn’t want to do anything with God, shouting “Leave us alone!” We must know what’s normal or become uncomfortable with normal. Another passage shows that Jesus was shocked by people’s unbelief. So, he must leave or get killed.
The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38-39).
We can see him living in healthy relationships now. His love for God was restored, and he wanted to follow Jesus. He was obedient when Jesus asked him to stay behind. Normally, we read about Jesus asking people like him to follow him, but this time he asked him to stay behind and be the witness to how much God has done for him.
Notice it says “how much.” It’s 6000-demons-worth of blessings. How much has God done for you? We often look at blessings in terms of material gains and well-being, but God wants to restore our relationships as our priority, and that’s a greater blessing than anything else. What would that man proclaim? Of course, relationship restoration.
That reminds us of our mission as Christians and as a church. Our mission is to spread the good news of healthy relationships with God and people and drive out the demons of broken relationships. We practice it in the church and proclaim it in the world. This broken world needs to hear your message about relationship restoration. Let’s do it together!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.