Be quiet! said Jesus sternly. Come out of him! The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
Several years ago, I attended a church that was rocked by a series of mistakes by the pastor and others on the staff. I will not defend the grievous sin that began the whole debacle or the actions of the pastor that some considered a cover-up. That’s not what I’d like to focus on here. Instead, I’d like to consider the actions of a significant number of church members, several of whom I counted as friends, that undoubtedly made the matter worse and reflected very poorly on this body of Christ.
To this day, I recall with discomfort sitting in a clandestine deacon meeting in which a cabal of self-appointed leaders had stacked the agenda to achieve their ends. When the rank and file failed to immediately embrace their ends, one of my friends leaped up and berated us: “What are you afraid of?”
To this day, I wish I had stood and rebuked him, saying “Be quiet.” I’m not suggesting that this man was demon possessed. He’d have a better excuse if he were. Instead, I think he just let the emotions of the thing carry him away.
When Jesus heard foolish talk, whether prompted by a spirit or the flesh, he spoke against it. In this case, he went on, calling the spirit out of the man in dramatic fashion. When he rebukes the Pharisees, he doesn’t drive out demons from them as they were not possessed. But he does not simply stand by and listen to foolish talk.
How much foolish talk do I tolerate in the course of a day. I’m not talking about the foolish talk regarding how the Kansas City Royals should rebuild the pitching staff. I mean talk that matters. Do I listen to unkind gossip? Do I listen to talk that tears down the church? Do I listen silently to destructive theology? All too often, like that evening at my former church, I do that.
How did Jesus respond? He stopped the foolish talk and then took the appropriate counter action. That approach could work for us as well.