Can the demon of racism be dislodged in an instant? A Birmingham pastor said yes. While watching a young couple unload their car on the street across from his church, he decided to invite them to his church. Then, halfway across the street, he realized they were Black. In the blink of an eye, he knew the Lord was calling him to minister to precisely that couple—in fact, to all people—not just white people. In that instant, he vowed to start a multicultural church serving the poor, and he kept his vow. A similar epiphany transformed John Newton, the slave trader turned abolitionist, whose hymn, “Amazing Grace,” famously declares, “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
Jesus’ power to break our spiritual shackles can be found in the Gospel of Luke. As Luke tells it, Jesus arrived in the region of the Gerasenes, a Gentile area, when he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. But, in fact, all of us meet Jesus when we’re burdened by spiritual demons like bigotry, jealousy, unforgiveness, naked ambition, and anger. Like the shackled man, we may waste our lives among dead things—lies, conspiracy theories, hard-hearted disobedience, idolatry, and racism.
Racism is a pervasive spiritual brokenness. It replicates itself like a deadly virus, infecting legions as it rages through a body. But not even racism stands up to the Lord’s authority.
Thus, John Wesley’s pamphlet “Thoughts Upon Slavery” has inscribed on its cover the convicting words of Genesis 4:10: “And the Lord said—what hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground” (KJV).
Indeed. Now freed, confess and tell others that Jesus saves.
Lord, heal my heart now of racial sin. Amen.
The fact that we trust in God does not guarantee that life will be easy. Believers suffer discouragement as well. Elijah is a powerful prophet of God who faces profound discouragement. He looks around and sees faithlessness and desolation, as does the psalmist wrestling with his own sense of despair. In both cases the person’s spirit is revived—by divine visitation to Elijah and by the psalmist’s self-talk about the truth of God’s faithfulness. The New Testament readings take us in a different direction. Paul speaks of the freedom we have when we are in Christ, heirs to all of God’s promises. The Gospel writer tells of another kind of freedom, the freedom experienced by a man delivered from demon possession.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-15a. Recall a time you ran to a silent place. How did God send you back into the world?
Read Psalm 42. The author asks us to imagine the words of this psalm coming from the mouth of Elijah and the Gerasene man. Consider how these words might be yours as well.
Read Galatians 3:23-29. How does your faith in Christ help you to realize that there is freedom in unity rather than to flee in fear?
Read Luke 8:26-39. What true story do you have to tell to the world of what Jesus has done for you?
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