Often, when we see God’s powerful hand at work, we are shocked and frightened — what is one of the most common phrases in Scripture but “Be not afraid”? In today’s reading from Matthew, when Jesus sends demons away from the people and into pigs, instead of flocking to him because of this great feat (really, a great public service, as the passage explains that the demoniacs would not let anyone pass by the place), they begged him to leave them.
It reminds me of the Hebrew people’s reaction to Moses’ shining face — they plead with Moses to cover his face so that they would not see the alarming light. How often to we have the same reaction to holiness?
Living in the world, surrounded by influences from media, secularism, slothfulness, and gluttony, those things that are oriented toward God — virtues, and holiness — can make us feel very much out of place and uncomfortable. I’ve found, however, that I grow most when I subject myself to uncomfortable situations regularly. God is most often in the uncomfortable places.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is stubborn, jealous for the affection of his people, but true growth, maturity, and discipleship comes from at least submitting to these frightening moments of holiness, if not learning how to embrace them wholeheartedly.