Binding the Strong Man

"Whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Luke 11:26).

Jesus' day to day ministry, healings and exorcisms had cosmic implications. His power to drive out evil spirits showed that he drew his authority from the spiritual realm, where the real battle between Good and Evil, God and Satan, is being decided. The Kingdom of God has overcome the kingdom of Satan, and this is reflected in all the lesser defeats going on in the world. The demons and evil spirits recognized Jesus' superior authority. By knocking out the organizing principle of evil, Jesus neutralized all its manifestations. 

While we may not see the universe in these terms, we can certainly recognize that the most powerful forces in our modern society are not individual criminals but distortions in the larger culture itself. When fear overtakes and divides a society, or when blind ambition and greed permeate the culture, the evil that results is much harder to identify, control or eliminate. People participate in evil without even recognizing it, because its values seem normal.

When we speak of a "gun culture" or a "consumer culture" or we observe people indulging in a "culture of hate" based on race or ethnicity or gender, we are describing deeply rooted assumptions and prejudices that contribute to the breakdown of common values.  Violence becomes the norm, sexual predation and abuse becomes socially tolerated, homophobia and zenophobia seem justified, even praiseworthy in a twisted way. What an individual might be ashamed to say or do alone becomes acceptable in the crowd.

Only time or crisis can expose this kind of spiritual influence, break the spell that blinds people to how destructive their collective behaviors can be. Jesus apparently had the authority to challenge dominant, controlling assumptions and distorted social behaviors.  When he spoke, evil fled, those held captive were set free, physical symptoms disappeared. 

We participate in his power to speak truth to power, love to hate, goodness to evil.  The bigger the distortions and lies, the more prayer and fasting may be required to break their control over our minds and hearts.  But Jesus holds the upper hand, and we are to live without fear by imitating his courage.