Open House

"The past is our definition. We may strive with good reason to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it. But we will escape it only by adding something better to it."
--Wendell Berry

Looking for a romantic getaway for the weekend, or a place to vacation for a week this summer? Consider a house in rural Pennsylvania that has recently been turned into a quaint bed and breakfast.

Would it matter to you, though, if it was the house used in the 1991 suspense and horror film, Silence of the Lambs? It was where the serial killer, Buffalo Bill, lived.

I do not believe in "haunted houses," and I never saw that particular movie, but I still think such an atmosphere would be a bit too creepy to allow for a restful holiday. Audrey is a realtor, and she tells me that, in some states (such as California), agents are compelled to inform their clients of "stigmatizing events" that have taken place in a house that the client is considering buying. Things like a violent murder occurring there, or a suicide. Or maybe... paranormal vibes.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 11:24-26 about a man (symbolized as a house) where an unclean spirit lived. He was cast out of the person. After wandering around, the spirit decided to go back and see his old residence. He found it swept clean and quite orderly. He immediately went to get seven others more wicked than himself and they became roommates. A literal "animal house.” Now, the man was in worse shape than before the original exorcism.

When I preach on that story I say that the point is this: Repenting of sin and "cleaning up your act" is good-- but it isn't enough. Letting go of a shameful past is necessary, but ultimately impossible unless something positive is added. As a Christian, I understand that a better ending to the parable would be for Jesus to have been invited into that house—that person—to fill it, totally redecorate it, and make Himself at home there.

A person can lead a good, moral life that makes a positive contribution to society without having such a relationship to Christ. But still, something vital is missing. There's an emptiness deep inside. And, according to Jesus' parable, a certain vulnerability remains.

PS. Audrey went on to tell me that Virginia is NOT one of those full-disclosure states. Only if you ask.




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