Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Living Dead

There's another zombie movie coming out so the Chicago Tribune did an article in yesterdays paper about how over time the ever popular zombies have gotten faster and faster. It used to be that for as terrifying as zombies were, you knew you could always outrun them. Their strength was in their numbers and in their persistence. But lately zombies are as fast as we are, even faster. The dead suddenly have gotten a whole lot of pep.

You don't have to be a zombie though to be included among those called the Living Dead. We have an example of this in the story of the Gerasene Demoniac in the Bible. This is how Luke describes this demon-possessed man: "As [Jesus] stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs (Luke 8:27)." He lived among the tombs, with the dead. This is appropriate because the way his life was controlled by darkness it was like he was living a life of death.

Today we often look at this man and think of mental illness. In fact some translations he is even called a "madman." Mental illness would not have been on the radar of the first century audience that Luke was writing for. Its easy when looking at him to be caught up by our ideas of mental illness or by the scary thought of a mass of demons speaking in unison that we are "Legion."  Yes we find that here, but truth be known, people are constantly living in a reality that can be described as being "Living Dead" without ever getting to scary demons and severe mental illness.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Yes, if we were a zombie we would not be living abundant life, nor if we we were possessed with The Exorcist-like demons. But every day people are kept from living abundant-life through the forces of wickedness. The dangerous thing about the powers of darkness they usually work in an insidious manner. The Living Dead sometimes don't even know that they are living an existence that is not their own, bringing no life to themselves or anyone else.

But most of the time, though, we are fully aware when the life that we are living and the "choices" we are making are leading us to nothing but a dead end. When the man who was possessed fell down before Jesus' feet that was an indication that deep down this man was seeking help, though he could not express it or control his words. The demons were so strong within him. His only opportunity for freedom was Jesus Christ. And indeed it was Christ who gave him his life back. He became Alive... The Living Alive... The Living Abundant Life.

Paul understood all this. Famously he speaks for us all when he writes, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate (Romans 7:15)."  The devil thrives on this with greater success than through mental illness or zombies or The Exorcist. If we remain controlled by Living Dead-like actions then the days, months and years will just melt away without us ever experiencing the abundant life that is available to us now through Christ. Our hope to break free is the same hope that freed the demon-possessed man in the country for the Gerasenes: Jesus Christ. Through Christ we have abundant life. Through following our Lord's will and surrendering ourselves to him we have abundant life.

So many of us can feel it deep in our core when we are living a Living-Dead life. We want to change and want to be set free. For many it means being set free from addictions. For others its seeking to stop harming others and themselves. There is one source of freedom: and that is Christ. "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24-25a)."

The Living Dead are all around us. When we are controlled by forces that lead us to make choices and do actions that bring no life, we are right there with them. The Living Dead are not zombies... nor are they the mentally ill... they are children of God who are seeking the hope and peace that alluding them. Abundant life is available to them and to all of us when we give our lives to Christ and follow him. Now "declare how much God has done for you (Luke 8:39)."