Who do you hope will not show up this holiday to ruin your good time? Admit it. There’s always someone in every family system that just seems to suck the air out of the room. I’ve known families who plan trips to foreign lands as an avoidance strategy for not having to invite Cousin Lenny over to their house for Christmas. I am sure we all have a variety of reasons for not wanting to hang out with certain people over the holidays – some completely legitimate, others might be personal preference. But before we get all judgy or renew our passports, here’s a story that might have something to teach us.
As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out of the tombs. 3 This man lived among the tombs, and no one was ever strong enough to restrain him, even with a chain. 4 He had been secured many times with leg irons and chains, but he broke the chains and smashed the leg irons. No one was tough enough to control him. 5 Night and day in the tombs and the hills, he would howl and cut himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from far away, he ran and knelt before him, 7 shouting, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”
8 He said this because Jesus had already commanded him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”
9 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He responded, “Legion is my name, because we are many.”
10 They pleaded with Jesus not to send them out of that region.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside. 12 “Send us into the pigs!” they begged. “Let us go into the pigs!” 13 Jesus gave them permission, so the unclean spirits left the man and went into the pigs. Then the herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.
14 Those who tended the pigs ran away and told the story in the city and in the countryside. People came to see what had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the man who used to be demon-possessed. They saw the very man who had been filled with many demons sitting there fully dressed and completely sane, and they were filled with awe. 16 Those who had actually seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man told the others about the pigs. 17 Then they pleaded with Jesus to leave their region. Mark 5:2-17 CEB
Who would invite this guy to dinner, pre-exorcism? Not many of us. I am in no way suggesting that we open our doors to people who require chains and leg irons in order to behave in a civil manner. But what I am suggesting is that this is a guy who people had given up on but who ended up completely sane. Here’s my point: is it possible that you are carrying around some old ideas about people that no longer apply? Heaven forbid it – but might there be people who are carrying around old ideas about YOU that no longer apply? People change. Sometimes. Maybe there are creative ways to make connections with people who have been difficult in the past. We don’t necessarily have to invite them to the Thanksgiving Feast, but is there another way we could connect that would be both kind to them and careful with the safety of others?