There are many disturbing elements in the story of the “man of the city who had demons” in Luke 8:26-39.

The condition of this unfortunate man is certainly disturbing – banished from civilized society to live “in the tombs”, “under guard and bound with chains and shackles.”  The fate of the “large herd of swine,” which “rushed own the steep bank into the lake and was drowned,” is disturbing. It is disturbing that, apart from Jesus, fear seems to have been the dominant reaction of everyone who encountered this man in his  disturbing condition.

But the most troubling element of this story is the response of

all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenses.

When they heard the report of the miracle Jesus had performed in the life of this man who they knew had been so deeply disturbed and so powerfully destructive, they 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. (Luke 8:35)

You might expect that the response of these people who had witnessed this triumph of light in the midst of darkness would be to rejoice and to celebrate. Surely, these people will welcome back into their community with open arms this man who had been banished from “civilized” society. Surely, seeing that his life has been restored to peace and sanity from violence and destruction, they will long to know the source of this miracle and enter into relationship with this life-giving power. But no, Luke says, when they heard the story of this man’s healing and understood that Jesus was the source, they

asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. (Luke 8:37)

It is a tragic and deeply disturbing picture suggesting that, perhaps it is not just death and destruction that we fear. Perhaps we are also at times afraid of life. Perhaps we find Jesus as threatening as demons.

The problem with Jesus is that he is unpredictable. He does not conform to our demands; he will not submit to our wishes. Love is a formidable force, stronger than any “demons”, more powerful than any violence or destruction. But, the force Jesus embodied, demands something of us.

Jesus refuses to allow the man who has been healed to stay with him. Instead, he orders the man to

Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. (Luke 8:39)

This is the challenge I am not sure I want to hear.  Go home. Get your own house in order. Return to the primal relationships in your life. Practice in relationship to those who know you, the healing and redemption you have experienced in Jesus. Start your journey of love and reconciliation with the people from whom your violence has caused you to be become separated. Overcome the pain and tragedy of brokenness where you live with the people in your life who have most felt the pain of your demons.

Love starts right where I am, in my own home. If I cannot start by being the presence of healing and love precisely where I am, it is unlikely that I will able to live anywhere the life of love which I know the Spirit of Jesus seeks to empower.

It is all very well to feel called to save the world and work for justice for all people. But, if I can’t make love real in my closest most intimate relationships, it is questionable whether I can make it real anywhere.

So, to avoid the deep challenge Jesus presents, I ask him to leave. Don’t “torment me” with your demand to live authentically, lovingly and vulnerably. Leave me alone with my deadly self-protection and my destructive self-absorption.

Sadly, this is the one request Jesus always heeds and he slips quietly away from those who do not want the power of his presence to be at work in their lives.

But, if I am willing to face my own demons, I will find that my heart begins to break open to a deeper truer and more authentic place. Then, I will return “home” with renewed light and goodness in my life. I will live more gently and kindly right where I am.