FIRST-PERSON: The curious case of Demas

O'FALLON, Ill. (BP) -- I am curious about a biblical character named Demas.

He is only mentioned three times in the New Testament. But there is intrigue and mystery and disappointment surrounding him. What happened? Where did it go wrong?

Demas is mentioned in Philemon 24 along with other, more prominent names like Mark and Luke. He is one of those Paul calls a "coworker." It suggests Demas traveled with Paul, shared the Gospel and planted churches with him. It leads us to believe that Demas started well in ministry and made a valuable contribution to the Kingdom of God.

In Colossians 4:14, Paul tells us, "Luke, the dearly loved physician, and Demas send you greetings." It seems just a bit odd that Luke is given a glowing description and Demas none at all. Perhaps it means nothing. Perhaps things have started to change. But at least he is still involved with his ministry partners.

Far more is revealed some time later in 2 Timothy 4:9-10. "Make every effort to come to me soon, because Demas has deserted me, since he loved this present world, and has gone to Thessalonica."

Desertion is a strong word. Demas turned his back. He abandoned his ministry and responsibilities and friends. Demas deserted.

Demas is not the only deserter. Many more start in ministry than finish in ministry. More promises are made than kept. More friendships begin than endure.

But why did he desert his friends and ministry? Details are not provided but one overarching reason is given: "He loved this present world."

If you love this world, you love the wrong home. God made you for something bigger. He saved you, Christian, for something that lasts much longer. If you love this world, your love is misplaced and you will find yourself abandoning the better choices.

If you love this world, you won't sacrifice for the cause of Christ and you won't go to hard places in the service of Christ. Rather, you will follow comfort or convenience or power or fame or pleasure rather than Christ.

We Christians are to love the people of this world and to give ourselves to ministry in this world. But our love is reserved not for this world, but the world to come. This is the fallen world, the dying world, the broken world. We are headed to the perfect world, the living world, the world for which our inner soul longs.

Demas is instructive. He exemplifies the danger of misplaced affection. His description calls out to us a plea to persevere and stay true. If an associate of Paul can desert, we are certainly capable as well. That should sober us.

Maybe your own affection is wavering between two worlds. You see the lights and glamor and are tempted to live for the here and now and for self. But may I remind you that God has something far better in mind? May I encourage you to stay at the task of ministry though it can be hard and sometimes lonely?

The curious case of Demas reminds us to love -- and live for -- the right world.

Doug Munton, online at dougmunton.com, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in O'Fallon, Ill., and former first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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