For the Love of Swine
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record a tragic event from Jesus’ life that occurred on His visit to a certain region whereafter He never returned as far as we know, all because the people there apparently preferred the presence of their swine, to the presence of the Savior (Please see/study: Matt. 8:28-34; Mk. 5:1-17; & Lk. 8:26-37).
We are all probably at least somewhat familiar with the story, and how Jesus arrived in the Gadarene (or Gergasene) region and drove many demons from a couple of men, out into a nearby herd of swine which then rushed down a steep hillside to their deaths as they drowned in the depths of the sea. Shortly thereafter, the herdsman, townsfolk, and inhabitants of that region begged Jesus to leave their area – which He did, never to return as far as we know. What a terrible, tragic, and soul-destroying, salvation-rejecting decision! But apparently they preferred the putrid presence of their pigs, to the perfecting presence of the Prince of Peace.
Why would I say such a thing? Consider… While they begged Jesus to leave their area, they were apparently quite comfortable with the presence of their pigs, as they had obviously, previously chosen to keep their pigs around for a while. And although these folks were likely of Jewish descent and knew that pigs were unclean to them as God’s holy and chosen people (Lev. 11:7, Deut. 14:8), apparently God’s commands didn’t matter all that much to them. After all, Matthew tells us there were “many swine” (vs. 30); while Mark tells us it was a “large herd,” (vs. 11), “about two thousand” (vs. 13). And such numbers would surely mean full coffers and large financial surpluses for those who kept the pigs close. Hence, the pigs had been wanted, coddled, protected and cherished… while the Savior wasn’t – and was therefore sent packing… quite likely never to return.
What has this got to do with congregations of the Lord’s church today? Much indeed. The simple fact of the matter is – whether some of the more sensitive amongst us might find it abrasive or offensive – that several times in the Scriptures themselves, certain types of people are undeniably aligned with, alluded to, and/or illustrated as… “pigs”… or “swine” that is. For example, in Proverbs 11:22 we would note that “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.” In Isaiah 65:1-5 we see those people who willfully rebel against God and His word, closely associated with swine and assorted other abominations; those who walk in accordance with their own thoughts and desires instead of His and therefore continually anger and irritate God. Those words of God are closely echoed once again – with severe judgments additionally pronounced – in Isaiah 66:1-5 and 15-17.
In the New Testament we would note that both Jesus Christ our Lord as well as the Apostle Peter referred to certain people as akin to swine. In both of these cases (Matt. 7:6; 2 Ptr. 2:22), we see that these are those people who simply will not humble themselves and accept, obey, and submit to God’s precious word. Those verses are NOT referring to those who occasionally fall short, make mistakes, and when they do, are sincerely willing to repent because they truly want to get and stay right with God no matter the personal cost or sacrifice. But these texts are referring specifically to those who have willfully, knowingly, and stubbornly chosen to reject and rebel against God’s word on certain matters, in order to do what they want no matter what, despite what God said. We would note from 2nd Peter 2 in particular, that these are those who, in their lust for greed (or power?) are willing to wantonly and knowingly support and promote false doctrine (vss. 1-3); who will speak evil of any spiritual edicts or subjects they don’t want to take the time to honestly and scripturally understand and/or obey (vs. 12); deceiving children of God who know, but resist God’s truth; who have willfully and knowingly forsaken the right way of God; and who stubbornly and persistently refuse to repent! This, while they deceptively seek to sneak back in to feast with the flock – not to repent, but for the purpose of dragging those still living faithfully to the word back out into the world with them (vss. 13-22)!
The first-century congregation of the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16) in Corinth had to learn this same lesson exactly (1 Cor. 5:1-13). Such abhorrent, willful, sinful and pig-style rebellion and behavior has never been acceptable to God nor will it ever be. The Corinthians had to make a choice just like the Gadarenes: swine… or Savior? One must go, and one must stay – for willful self-chosen sin, and the Savior of mankind, simply cannot long co-exist. This is the same choice that so many congregations of the Lord’s church must also face and make today; for not to face it, is still to make it. If or when any congregation’s main focus, preference, and priority, becomes ONLY the numbers and the financial landfall such numbers can bring no matter how much willful sin, rejection, rebellion, and worldly false doctrine such folks defiantly engage in as they trample the pearls of God’s truth beneath their dirty hooves before turning on the few still faithful, then, in reality… isn’t Jesus still being asked to leave?