The man who ate a homeless person’s face in Miami continues to make news today. According to observers, Rudy Eugene was “acting like Tarzan,” swinging on a light pole minutes before he attacked Ronald Poppo and began to eat his face. When police ordered Eugene to get off Poppo, he refused and growled at them as the officer shot and killed him.
Last week, a man in New Jersey stabbed himself 50 times, then threw bits of his own intestines at police. After pepper spray had no effect, a SWAT team was called to subdue the man. And yesterday, packages containing a severed hand and foot were delivered by mail to schools in Vancouver. Canadian police believe they are probably linked to the videotaped murder, dismemberment and cannibalism of Chinese exchange student Jun Lin. Luka Rocco Magnotta was recently arrested for the crime in Berlin.
What is going on? We’re used to violence, but this is something else entirely. Some are calling these episodes a “zombie apocalypse.” Others blame “bath salts,” a mixture of stimulants that can cause psychotic episodes. Still others blame mental illness.
Such bizarre behavior causes Christians to wonder if demons were involved. Mark’s Gospel describes a demoniac: “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” (Mark 5:4-5). Note the parallels: abnormal strength, destructive and irrational behavior.
Did Satan cause the attacks that have made recent headlines? Unless we knew the perpetrators’ spiritual condition, we cannot be certain. Did he use them? Absolutely. Here is his resume: “He was a murderer from the beginning . . . a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44) who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Any time you see murder, lies, theft and destruction, you can know that Satan has been at work, in Jesus’ day and ours.
Christians are not exempt. If Jesus is your Lord, Satan cannot have your soul. He will, however, try to steal your witness and your joy. What should we do? First, expect his attack: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Second, prepare for his assault: “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11). Surrender your life and day to the Holy Spirit now, asking for his protection and power. Third, ask God to use your life and witness to assault the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18), taking the light of Christ into your dark world wherever you go today.
The devil is real, but he is a defeated foe. I once saw this advice on a T-shirt: “The next time Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.”