Until fairly recently, if it's not associated with Halloween, it's considered a vestige of some bygone era where superstition reigned supreme. I'm talking about witchcraft. The word conjures up images of old, bent women with scraggly hair, pointed hats and noses, stirring cauldrons of some noxious, bubbling brew or riding around on broomsticks. There is a growing segment of society however, which proudly claims the title. Spells and incantations are taken seriously from this now recognized and often accepted religion. Its adherents are unabashedly anti-Christian, but not necessarily in a proselytizing way.
There is however, a dark side to the practice, and it is wreaking devastation all across our country. In the Christian Bible, the term witchcraft or sorcery is used sparingly, but where it surfaces, it is with an unexpected twist. It's found only in six places: 2 Chronicles 33:6, Isaiah 47:9 and 12, Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21, and 18:23. While there are other words translated sorcery or witchcraft, in these six verses the word is pharmakeia, the word from which is derived pharmacy. It refers to the use of drugs in the incantations and religion of the day. It is always considered evil, and in the Revelation texts it is closely tied to the demonic.
The demonic in Scripture is always associated with bondage of some sort, where the individual so tormented or seemingly possessed has relinquished control of his or her life. I can think of no better description of drug addiction than this. In the past week, our community has been rocked by three overdoses. Today county and state police have been swarming all over our village looking for a young man who escaped from custody as he was being escorted into court for allegedly making meth in his home just up the street from us. He had gotten out of nearly a year's stay in jail only two months ago.
When we hear of such things going on in other communities, it is easy to adopt a "they got what was coming to them" attitude. When it's neighbors you've known, kids you watched grow up, and when you see grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, and children grieving-all people you know-it's another story altogether. I don't understand why kids experiment with this stuff. It's not as if no one knows what it does to you. I can't imagine feeling so empty, so discouraged, so filled with hopelessness and despair that one turns to such stuff. Sadly, it often begins with prescriptions to help people deal with post-surgical pain.
That's the devil's way. He takes what is legitimate, twists and distorts it till it becomes destructive. Our hope as Christians is the message of the Gospel that Jesus Christ sets people free from their bondage through the power of the resurrection. It is however, rarely an easy deliverance. It's hard enough to rescue someone held tightly in an enemy's prison. It is harder still when the one being delivered wants to stay imprisoned. The battle is physical, social, psychological, and spiritual. I pray for the day when sorrow and sadness shall be no more and the tears shall be wiped away, and I thank God for those who labor on the front lines of this battle, and for those who have been rescued. We are assured the victory is ours, but in the meantime, I weep for those casualties of the fight.