I witnessed my first exorcism five years ago. A friend who belonged to my church – a very gentle, humorous and smart person – started to act extremely weird during worship; shouting and shaking uncontrollably. The other church members quickly started to pray, and as they brought Michael, who previously had told me that he had a lot of experience when it comes to deliverance, I knew things were serious.
It was pretty terrifying of course, realizing that something else may be controlling my friend’s body. I was even more upset when Michael failed to cast out the demons that day. Their filthy activities continued for several weeks when we met for worship, until they finally were driven away by prayer and the Word of God.
Delivering people from demons is of course a very Biblical practice. We read in the Gospels:
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. – Mark 1:23-26
Note that Jesus delivers the man from the demon without harming him. Exorcism basically is a non-violent tool to deal with people who are more or less dangerous for themselves and their surroundings. Mark 5 gives an even more detailed description of how distorted one can be by demonic influences:
When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. – Mark 5:2-10
Demons can thus cause superhuman strength, and they are conscious beings with whom one can discuss with. They’re also afraid of Jesus, claiming that He “tortures” them, and it is possible that several demons are demonizing a single peron at once.
Thankfully, the power of God in the Name of Jesus is always stronger than these creepy ghosts. When I was in South Africa two years ago, we went to a small village close to the Mozambican border. There we cast out demons and prayed for inner healing and restoration for some women who had previously been involved in Sangoma, animist witch craft. It was dramatic to see an otherwise peaceful and polite lady go beserk, screaming and rolling around just because pastor Jeremiah prayed for her. He cast out the demons and the lady went up, overwhelmed, thanking him and Jesus.
I’m surprised to see that many people in the West, even some Christians, think that belief in God and angels is normal but belief in the devil and demons is ridiculous or outrageous. Then, after denying the existence of evil spiritual realities, they pose the problem of evil as an argument against God. But just as the existence of creation is an argument for God’s existence, the existence of prevalent evil and suffering is an argument for the devil’s existence. Thankfully, Jesus has given us the authority “to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Lk 10:19). Let’s use that authority.