"When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding it, it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first." - Luke 11:24-26
Have you had a huge break-through? Has your church cast off paralyzing fears? Have you gotten clean and sober? A big victory at the ballot box? The job you always wanted?
Don't let that initial victory fool you. You've got to follow through. You've got to build a new order, a new life, one step at a time and day by day.
If you don't, says Jesus, in the story of the evil spirit that was cast out only to return, bringing seven more like it along, things could be worse than ever.
In Carol Anderson's extraordinary and award-winning 2016 book, White Rage, The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, the author tells the story of what happened after the Civil War and after the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. It is a hard, heart-breaking story.
I had a general idea that the post-Civil War period of "Reconstuction" hadn't been great. I had no idea, until reading White Rage, that after the evil spirit of slavery had been cast out, it came back with arguably greater terror and violence than before.
There was, after the abolition of slavery, no political will to follow through. We're still living with the consequences of that failure.
We would, as Americans, like to point to the Civil War and the 13th Amendment, or to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Act, and declare "Victory Won." "Mission Accomplished." Done with that. Can we move on now?
We elected a black President. Can we move on now? Can't you get over it?
Jesus says, not so fast. You've got to follow through on every victory. Cleaning the house is one thing. Making it a home that is healthy and strong is another one altogether.
God, grant me long-haul courage and commitment. After we rejoice in a break-through, give us staying power. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.