On Pigs, Demons and Leashes
Matthew 8:28,29 …Two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God?”
I probably spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating God’s sovereignty versus free will. Is God really in control of everything? If He knows the future and is in complete control, then I can not really be responsible for my destructive behavior, right? I do not believe this, but the alternative is not much more helpful. If I am in control and have complete free will, then God is just watching this mess unfold and cannot really be relied on for much of anything.
In my mind, it has to be one or the other, God is in complete control or I have free will. The bible seems to teach both however, which is what I believe even if I do not understand it. I am responsible for my own actions and still God is somehow sovereign over all. This is one of those mysteries that I will never completely understand, but here is my best effort.
As I was walking my dog a few days ago, I observed him to constantly test the limits of his leash, sometimes to my irritation. I was walking in a relatively straight path, the direction of which the dog really had no choice but to follow. However, within the confines of his 15-foot leash, He ran back and forth constantly. Within the borders of his leash, he had freedom, but ultimately, I was still in control.
Likewise, this story in Matthew tells of Jesus’ control over even the most rebellious in creation. In this bizarre account, two demon-possessed and apparently violent men submitted to Jesus. Previously free to cause misery for many, they realized they were powerless before God himself. They threw themselves at his mercy, begging to be sent into a local herd of pigs instead of being banished to wherever God banishes such creatures. Jesus, allowed this request, sending the demons into the pigs, only to watch them commit mass suicide by drowning, presumably ending up in the very fate they were trying to avoid.
Thus, even the most rebellious, evil beings in creation exist only by the leave of God. They have some free will within what circle of activity God allows. It is simply not an option however, for anyone or anything to act in a manner outside of God’s ultimate will.
This does not mean that I cannot choose to turn my back on God and pursue self. This is apparently within the limits of what God allows. I can walk by his side or I can, like my dog, constantly test the limits of my freedom.
It is terrible for me to contemplate that the most heinous acts in human history are allowed by God. It is at the same time, comforting to me to know that those same acts were not done outside of his sovereignty. Likewise, it is terrifying for me to realize that I alone am responsible for my destructive behavior and comforting to know that God is still somehow in control of it all. I can see that even through my destructive, rebellious behavior, He has always been working to bring about his will.