Too many people have medical and psychological needs that are grossly unmet. Not only as Christians, but as humans, this reality should tug on our conscience in such a way that we become restless. This is not okay. For an individual to not receive the care they need, in a country that has overwhelming ability and resource, is a dire atrocity.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is approached by a man that has been possessed by a demon (Luke 8:26-39). The man is so worn out and distressed that he wore no clothing and lived among the tombs, often shackled because the town folk feared him. Over the years, biblical interpreters have attempted to explain the issue of demon possession, a language very prominent in biblical times. To put it in a more contemporary frame of mind, one of the answers we settle upon is that these demons were what we know today as psychiatric conditions. However, I don’t believe any explanation is essential here. The story itself tells us what is important. Jesus has before him a man that is in distress. What does Jesus do? Jesus asks the man, “What is your name?”. What Jesus does here is bring humanity to a difficult situation. Jesus wants to know the name of this man that has been outcast by a society unequipped to live side by side with him. Knowing a person’s name makes an encounter personal, it provides a sense of dignity. For Christ to care that this man had an identity, to hear and say his name, showed compassion in a difficult circumstance. “I know you are hurting, Legion, I am here to listen.”
Ultimately, Legion, the man possessed by demons was healed by Jesus. And I believe the healing began when someone stood in front of him and cared that he existed, asked his name and embraced his identity. Who people are, matters. What people experience, matters. And what needs we all possess, require our sincere appreciation and resource. As Christians, if we care more about what people believe than who they are behind that belief, we are going about our discipleship all wrong. If we care more about what political party they align with than what struggles they experience, we are going about our discipleship all wrong. If we profess to be followers of Christ, then our utmost concern must be the dignity and respect of the person in front of us. Jesus led by example.
If there is need for more psychiatric resources, we need to raise our voices and put our money where our mouth is and fight for the needs of our brothers and sisters who are left without help. There are wonderful programs in Itasca County that work hard to change policy, distribute funds, provide case management, and educate leaders. To name a few: Kootasca, Itasca County Human Services, ElderCircle, Advocates for Family Peace, Kiesler Wellness Center, and the Grace House. These non-profits need our support.