Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
We don’t keep pigs now, not many people do. There was a time however when every farm kept a few sows and it wasn’t unusual for folks in the country who lived in ‘labourer’s cottages’ to keep a few pigs.
As a boy growing up, we kept a few sows and reared pigs. So coming home from school, getting changed and feeding pigs was a normal routine for me. Then going to the farm on a Saturday where there were also pigs to feed, clean out, wean, weigh and move.
Coming home later from the farm I was usually greeted with the same words, ‘Daddy you are stinking’ - and ‘advised’ to go for a shower. With no pigs on the farm now, I don’t smell just as bad and I am greeted more warmly!
There is a story about pigs recorded in three of the gospels. It is the remarkable story of the demon-possessed men who were miraculously healed by the Lord Jesus. The story reminds us that no one is too sinful, or living a life that is beyond the reach of the mercy, forgiveness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not only is the healing remarkable, so too is the reaction of the people. Having commanded the demons to leave, the demons begged Jesus to send them into a nearby herd of pigs. Having allowed this, the pigs ran headlong into a lake and were killed.
Matthew tells us, ‘Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region’ (Matthew 8: 33-34).
The people reported the loss of the pigs and the healing of the men, yet rather than seeking Jesus and wanting to find out more about Him, they pleaded with Jesus to leave, which He does.
How sad and how unbelievable it seems that the people were more concerned about the loss of pigs than the healing of the men, or in wanting to know Jesus. Is there something in our lives that we treasure or love more than Jesus? For these people it was pigs, for us it may be our homes, family, friends, business, pleasures or money.
We need to be careful of saying to Jesus that we can live without Him, as this is not just a tragedy in this life, but in the life to come, when all who say ‘no’ to Jesus will hear His dreadful words, ‘Depart from me I never knew you’ (Matthew 7: 23).
While we don’t know who wrote the hymn, the words of ‘Have you any room for Jesus’ should challenge us:
‘Room for pleasure, room for business;
But for Christ, the Crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?
Room and time now give to Jesus;
Soon will pass God’s day of grace -
Soon your heart left cold and silent,
And your Saviour’s pleading cease.’
It is my prayer you find and come to know this precious Saviour.
Robin Fairbairn is pastor/evangelist with Ballygowan Presbyterian Church in County Down and also works as ministry development officer with The Good Book Company. He lives in the country and has been farming every Saturday for more years than he cares to admit.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.
o The Farmers’ Mission will be held, God willing, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th November 2017 at 8.30pm at Ballymena Livestock Market on the Woodside Road, Ballymena. Everyone will be made very welcome.