When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time 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 desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. (Luke 8:27-33)
What a sad image we see here of a man, made in the image of God, yet possessed by a legion of demons. The first thing one would have taken notice of this man was that he was naked. After the fall in Genesis 3, we see humankind wearing clothes of sorts to cover their nakedness because with the entrance of sin into the world came shame. It is undignified to go about public places with our nakedness showing and this man being possessed by demons was living in his shame daily. Even further, he didn’t live in a house but among the tombs. This man, in essence, was counted among the dead.
We read that the people of that town kept him under guard, bound with chains and shackles. At times the demons would break the bonds and lead him into further isolation and deathly conditions into the desert. Ultimately, it appears as though he was frequently found bound among the tombs. So he was naked, poor, bound by chains, and counted as dead.
At first glance, we may not feel we can understand or sympathize with this man, but in all reality, we can. Though we may never have been demon possessed, before we accepted Christ as our Savior, we too were covered in shame, bound by the chains of sin, being dead in our sin living under the control set by the principalities of this world.
Notice here that the state of this demon possessed man wasn’t where Jesus’ sight stopped. Jesus did not point out his nakedness, his chains, or even mention his living conditions being among the tombs. Jesus first asked him his name.
There is something about a name that humanizes people. It’s easy in this world to label and only see people by their occupation, appearance, political party, blatant sins, etc. but that is the exact opposite of what Jesus did. No, Jesus wasn’t blind to these things, but time and time again, Jesus looked beyond the muck of sin to the soul of the sinner He loves because He came to save them, not condemn them.
There will be a day when God’s wrath comes upon those who chose not to accept Him as their Lord and Savior, but not only is only He able to judge on that final day, but until that day His Spirit still calls out as He has for thousands of years, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Shouldn’t we, as followers of Jesus, also be echoing the same message of salvation?
Here is a time to be honest with ourselves and God and contemplate these 3 questions:
- Do you ever get stuck on seeing the outward appearances or outwardly obvious sins of people, instead of looking beyond to the soul loved by God?
- If you’re so caught up in judging the temporal things about other people, how will ever bring yourself to even ask their name?
- If you can’t look beyond their sin to see them as people made in the image of God with a soul chained by sin and in need of Jesus, how will compassion ever be stirred within you to share Jesus with them?
And yet Jesus knows their name and loves them, and died for them, and has sent you in the ministry of reconciliation as His ambassador. Wouldn’t we be bad ambassadors if we didn’t follow the exact example Jesus has given in how to interact with sinners stuck in sin?
You were once in the same state of being dead in your sin before you gave your life to Christ, so in all reality there is no room for condemnation if you’re going to be an effective ambassador of Christ. There’s only room for love, compassion, truth, and boldness, but each of those components must be present.
If you share the truth in boldness without love and compassion, you convey blatant condemnation. If you have love and compassion but don’t share the truth in boldness, you convey hidden condemnation. Only sharing the truth with boldness pushes people away from desiring God due to the misrepresentation of Him, and only showing love and compassion draws people to an idea of God that doesn’t exist and they’ll ultimately die in the condemnation they’re already in without Him as their Savior.
You have been set free, and in order to be a useful vessel to bring others to Christ and also be set free, you must look beyond the sin to the very sinner in need of our Savior. I encourage you to look beyond those whom you encounter, and if you don’t know them yet, a good place to start is to do what Jesus did and ask them their name.