A foreign legion

By Delia Quigley

Our readings today serve to remind us who we all are within the Church and who the church is within us.

Galatians 3:23-29 

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.

Sometimes in our own experiences we feel like we are an outsider because we are different in some way. At times we have been excluded because of those differences. This issue of determining who is “in” or “out” – being included or excluded because of differences – was at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. 

For the earliest Jesus followers, this was not as much of a problem because most of the Jesus followers were Jewish, they decided to join this Jesus movement within the synagogues, and therefore continued to worship and to observe the same customs and the Jewish Law as they always had before.

So, for these Jewish Christians, things in the early church did not look much different from how things were in the Jewish community before Christ. However, as more and more Gentiles (or non-Jews) began to convert and join the movement, this new growing community had to begin to define what it believed and required of its new members. 

These Gentiles were different to the Jewish Christians: they were different ethnically and culturally. Many of them may have looked and dressed very differently than the Jewish Christians and possibly spoke differently to the Jews. They had different customs and world views, and they did not observe the Jewish Law – which defined the Jewish people as a faith community.

Many of the Gentiles were accepted into this new Jesus-movement community. However, there was a large group of Jewish-Christians who claimed that the Gentiles could only be included into this community and could only become children of God under one condition: they had to first convert to Judaism and observe the Jewish Law and customs. Among many things, abiding by this law included observing the dietary laws and the Sabbath and being circumcised – a practice that was considered very repulsive in the Hellenistic culture. Many Gentiles were receptive to such teachings – including the Gentile-Christians in the Galatian church that Paul was writing to.

I imagine that many of these Gentile Christians felt that they had no other choice if they wanted to become a child of God and be included into the faith community. We see that even when some of these Gentiles were included in this new Christian community without observing the Jewish Law, several of the more conservative Jewish Christians excluded them from the life of the faith community.

We even see this right before our passage for today – in Galatians 2, where Paul explains that several of these conservative Jewish-Christians – including Peter – refused to eat with the Gentiles in Antioch… I don’t think we can put too much blame on these Gentiles for trying to conform in order to be fully included.

Doesn’t this sound sort of familiar to us today? 

It will probably not take many of us here too long to think about who the individuals are around us who have been excluded and considered outsiders or others.

The good news is that Paul’s message to the Galatian church shows us that this is not the way God intended the world and the Church order to be. 
Paul then goes on to say that before there was faith in Christ, the law was a disciplinarian.  It was a temporary guide that helped the people of God discern how to live, interact with one another, and be reconciled to God.

However, now that Christ has come, proclaimed the good news of God’s love to all, died on the cross for the world, and has risen from the dead, all who have faith in Christ are no longer subject to this Law. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

I feel that what Paul is talking about here is the kind of love of neighbour and the unity that we find in the story of the Musketeers – that the men who swore to serve and protect the French king – had for each another.

We can learn from the story where the Three Musketeers, accepted D’Artagnon, the newest member of the Musketeers – he has a personal duel he has to attend to. And when he tells his new friends – the Three musketeers – that he will take care of the matter himself, the three musketeers interrupt him, saying: “we Musketeers not only protect the king, but we also protect each other.” The story ends with D’Artagnon shouting out: “All for one,” and the rest of the musketeers answering together, “and one for all.”

As followers of Jesus, not only do we strive to serve, protect, and love God, but we are also called to serve, protect and love our neighbour – and ALL who are in Christ – looking out for each other, protecting each other, all God’s children – All for one and One for all.

Our 2nd reading today is from Luke 8:26-39. This reading reminds us that even though we are all within the Church and we are one with Christ, that there are demons, we all have our own and that they need to be chased out, let go of so we can be as God intends for us.

Luke 8:26-39
Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes,[a] which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn[b] no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus[c] had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons[d]begged Jesus[e] to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people 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. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes[f]asked Jesus[g] to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus[h] sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Do you have one demon or many, called ‘Legion’? Are they demons that have come about by things from within? Or are the ‘Legion’ demons those that have come about from things that are external, outside of you, a ‘Foreign Legion’ so to speak?

This story in Luke (and Mark) is an extraordinary story of a naked man dwelling in a tomb, with demons within him stepping out to challenge Jesus, Jesus addressing the ‘Legion’, tossing the demons onto the back of pigs and subsequently driving the pigs off a cliff to drown & the terrified pig herders then rush to town and tell others. 

Everyone comes rushing to Jesus and they are so filled with fear they ask Jesus to go, so he got back into his boat telling the man previously possessed by the demons to return home and proclaim what God has done… So off he went to tell what Jesus had done.

Take a few moments thinking about the Foreign legion of demons that sneak up on us and rob us of our self-confidence and our conviction that we are children of God.

What is your demon or demons? 
Do you feel not good enough? 
Have you been taught to feel shame?
Have you been told your not enough or not smart enough?
Did you take on the things that bullies told you at school?
Did you feel that you could never make someone else happy? 
Whoever it was, whatever it was, those demons can be let go.
No matter what the Foreign legion of demons implanted within us have told us and no matter how the demons have tried to undermined us, we must remember that as Paul reminds us in Galatians we are all of us, one in Jesus Christ and he wants us to be loved and to be reminded that we are loved.
AND as we are told over and over again in the scriptures to Fear Not, to live in love with one another and to Love ourselves and our neighbours. 
Be a Musketeer and not a ‘Legion’

Photo of Delia Quigley

Written by Delia Quigley

Delia is an elder at TUC and a leader at the monthly Rainbow Christian Alliance. She is also a leader in Kairos Outside ministry and in the Emmaus Walks.

Delia is a retired Federal Police officer and has served in several peacekeeping operations, and is a member of Presbytery Standing Committee.

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