Scripture: Matthew 8:28-34
Key verse: (34) “Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.”
Reflection: One of the key principles within family systems theory is the concept of homeostasis. The word comes from two Greek words meaning, “same” and “steady.” Put simply, systems seek balance. When something new is introduced, or if something familiar is taken away, systems will seek balance to compensate for the change, attempting to re-establish homeostasis. In families this manifests around birth, death, marriage and divorce. As a family member is added, or taken away, the energy of the system ramps up to create a new homeostasis. When I do pre-marital counseling, we talk about the energy in the bride and groom’s families created by the homeostatic forces working on their families because of the addition of an in-law to the family system.
Today’s reading from Matthew is a story of homeostasis. Jesus enters the land of the Gadarenes in Gentile territory. Coming into that system he meets two demoniacs who live among the tombs. Jesus’ arrival upsets the homeostasis. The demons know he has come to destroy them. So they beg him to cast them into a nearby herd of pigs. The pigs are part of the system as well, likely an important component of the economic system of the community. Jesus casts the demons out and into the swine, who proceed to rush down the hill and drown themselves. Homeostatic forces are unleashed in a big way. While the two men are healed, the swineherds have lost their business. They run to the chamber of commerce in town and tell what’s happened. The townspeople all come out and meet Jesus. Rather than rejoicing that the two people have been healed, they fear Jesus. Apparently they care more about the pigs than these two human beings. To return to homeostasis, they beg Jesus to leave their community.
I’ve seen this story played out in real life. I’ve seen people battling alcoholism get sober, and then watch their families fall apart. Something about their alcoholism held the family in balance. I’ve seen a church bringing healing to homeless people be demonized by the community because the church was blamed for the presence of homeless people in the city. The church was part of the solution to a systemic problem, but like Jesus, the neighborhood would’ve rather seen the church go away.
When Jesus enters our lives, things change. And change is hard. Homeostatic forces resist change in our lives. We would rather remain the same. Yet Jesus brings us life and freedom and joy. The old life we lose pales in comparison to the new life he brings. He’s not the problem. He’s the solution.
Prayer: For your presence in my life, I thank you, Lord. Sometimes your presence challenges me, calling me to let go of life as I have known it to embrace the life you call me to live. Free me from the fear that longs to return to what has been, that I might discover the life to be found following you. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].