Living Well

When Pigs Die


Every day for the past 5 weeks, I’ve been getting to know a madman. 

That’s right – a madman. 

I’ve been meditating about an encounter that Jesus and his followers had with a madman. 

The encounter begins with Jesus inviting his followers to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. During his three years of public ministry, Jesus’s teachings and healings are a training ground for his faithful followers who will become trailblazers of the Jesus Movement. The disciples are in the School of Transformation with Jesus. 

So, when Jesus says to his disciples: “Let’s go to the other side”, I get the sense that Jesus is inviting the disciple to the other sides of themselves. To the madness within themselves. 

The invitation is the same for us who follow Jesus: “Let’s go to the other side.” 

One intriguing act happens that is a crucial part of transformation. 

Liberation for the madman comes when the pigs die. Jesus sends the demons – that once raged inside of him – into a herd of pigs. The demons lead the pigs over a cliff into the sea and they’re gone. 

What do the pigs have to do with us? 

Why did the pigs have to die? 

Wrestling with the pigs has confronted me and transforming me on the slow process toward living well.

So, if you’re someone who is open to a little confrontation as a means of transformation read on…

To understand the pigs, we need to understand a little bit of context. 

Pigs were considered unclean for Jewish culture. The presence of pigs means we are not in a Jewish community. This also means that it would have been scandalous for Jesus and his followers to be anywhere near the unclean pigs. 

Because this is not a Jewish community, the pigs were the number one source of income for this community. They were a commodity and had great value. 

What do the pigs have to do with us? 

The pigs were what the people valued. What they were attached to. The stuff of their lives. The pigs provided for them. Protected them. Preserved them. 

We may not have physical pigs in our lives, but we all have pigs. Pigs are the things that provide for, protect, and preserve us. Our family and friends, money, status, titles, houses, cars, phones, businesses, privilege, education, and countless other valuable commodities. The pigs are our attachments.  

What has confronted me about these pigs is how I’ve depended on my pigs more than on my God. 

How I’ve depended on my money (and my ability to make money) to provide for myself and others.

How I’ve depended on my titles – as a lawyer, as a pastor, as a friend – to protect me. 

How I’ve depended on my relationships to preserve me and my sense of worth. 

The first time we hear the instruction to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength” comes directly after we are told: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” 

God, speaking to a Israelite community, invites them to a monotheistic faith and dependence that was radical for them. They had a polytheistic worldview with demi-gods for every sphere of their lives. For the economy, for politics, for family, for fertility, for war, for everything. They could not make it through the day without intersecting with a different god for every sphere of life. For each god they engaged in a host of practices to show their faith and dependence on those gods for provision, protection, and preservation. 

To say that the Lord is one and to love the Lord with every sphere of their lives was a radical reorientation. Now, every sphere of their lives was reoriented around the Lord. 

We may not live in ancient Israelite culture, but we certainly have demi-gods for every sphere of our lives. They may not look like carved lifeless statutes, but anything we put our faith in and depend on more than God for provision, protection, and preservation is a demi-god. 

We all have pigs. The pigs in and of themselves are not inherently bad. Putting our faith in and dependence on them more than God is contra to our lives as followers of Christ. 

Why did the pigs have to die? 

The picture of these pigs dying confronts me, because darkness and brokenness that rages inside of me can only truly be liberated when the pigs die. 

This is the good news of the gospel: when I encounter Jesus the darkness and brokenness that tried to kill me, could not destroy me. Jesus cares so deeply about me that my demons won’t be able to kill me. But they will kill the things that I’ve tried to depend on more than God. 

I am learning what it means to seek first the kingdom of God – the reigning of God – in my life. 

I am learning what it means to reorder and reorient my life around Jesus and not around my pigs.

I’m learning that the darkness and brokenness among those who profess to be followers of Jesus is rooted in the veneer of monotheism. 

You and I proclaim that Jesus is Lord, yet we live polytheistic lives – depending on our pigs for our provision, protection, and preservation. We sing songs on Sunday about Jesus being our defender and our portion, but our actions betray us.

We construct our own protections and close off the messy parts of our lives guarding against raw conversations with God and our family in Christ. We carry – with closed fists – the money we earn to ensure our own provision leaving no room for generosity towards God and others. We cling to statuses and titles to preserve our place in society at the expense of a true devotion to the mission and body of Christ. Our faith is in God and all the other gods we depend on for living. 

But if this encounter teaches us anything, it’s that liberation comes when pigs die. When the attachments of our lives are crucified, we resurrect to a new life in Christ. We are set free from the demi-gods that we have relied on for our provision, protection, and preservation. Now, Jesus is enough. 

In my new life in Christ, every sphere of my life is reordered and reoriented around Jesus as Lord. My new self is putting off the old self and seeking to faithfully follow Jesus’s ways, words, and will. I am free to live the abundant life I was designed to live. 

This is where transformation happens. 

Liberation comes when pigs die. 

Three Practices to Reorder and Reorient Your Life Around Jesus

(These are the action steps that the Holy Spirit has been revealing to me in my process of transformation)

  1. Surrender your time : For me, this has looked a Sabbath. A full 24-hour block to experience rest and the presence of God. It’s teaching me to make adjustments to my weekly schedule and tasks, so that I can walk freely into this space with God. 
    • What do you do with your time?
    • What does that reveal about your priorities?
    • How might God be inviting you to reorder and reorient your time around the Lord? 
  2. Surrender your talentFor me, this has looked like using my unique package of skills and strengths as an attorney for church planting and for serving those around me.
    • What are your skills and strengths?
    • How can you use them “on mission” for Christ? Among your spheres of influence? Among your church family?
    • How might God be inviting you to reorder and reorient your talents around the Lord? 
  3. Surrender your treasures : For me, this has been the hardest one in this season. We are in the beginnings of church planting and my salary is not fixed. But every dollar is a blessing from God. So, whether it’s a little or a lot, I must faithfully follow God’s instruction to tithe 10% of everything. Trusting that 90% blessed by God is greater than 100% not blessed. It also means giving offering weekly and finding other opportunities to give generously. 
    • What is your relationship with your finances?
    • If you’re a follower of Christ, are you tithing to your church family and/or another church family who is blessing you?
    • How might God be inviting you to reorder and reorient your treasures around the Lord? 

 Allowing my pigs to die is hard work. 

But keeping them alive will keep me from living well, because I’ll live divided instead of whole. I’ll live proclaiming Jesus as Lord on Sundays and my bank account as Lord on Mondays. 

Liberation comes when pigs die. 

Together, let’s live well,

sg

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