Although we looked at the first part of this passage last week
in the context of its comparison with the story of Lydia
We are looking again this week.
Not so much in terms of possible responses, but in terms of our various settings.
It’s a story of imprisonment and freedom – an incredibly well crafted story at that.
it’s a story of contrasts and a story of surprises.
Let’s listen to the story and listen for all the areas where freedom is at stake.
Reading Acts 16: 16-34
Some of the references to freedom or bondage are pretty clear -
it’s a story about a slave girl and a jailer, and prisoners.
But there are plenty more! I think there are at least 10 areas of bondage and freedom.
And we need to remember that the book of Acts is written to follow on from Luke’s gospel.
The themes of Luke ARE the themes of Acts
And the themes of Luke are the themes spoken of by Jesus in Luke 4.
The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to:
Preach good news to the poor; proclaim release to the captives,
recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim the year of jubilee.
3 of the area of Jesus’ self identification are expressly about freedom.
So, let’s look at the passage and see what areas of being trapped and freedom it includes
1 Slave girl (“owned”)
2 Spirit of divination (“possessed”)
3 Slaves of the Most High God
4 Paul – annoyed . Healing for compassion, or because she’s in the way?
(trapped by own expectations of ministry?)
5 Hope of making money (trapped by need for financial security/ standard of living)
6 “They are Jews” trapped by racism. Who is trapped? Paul? Accusers? Both?
7 “Customs that are not lawful for us” –
trapped by the way that we are required to do things. Trapped by culture
8 “In the cell and the stocks”
9 “About to kill himself” – trapped by requirements of occupation and empire
10 “What must I do to be saved” – delightfully unclear about what this means!!
The reality is that everyone in this story needs to be freed.
The slave girl, the men who owned her, the crowd and the magistrate,
the jailer, and even Paul and Silas
William Willimon makes the comment in relation to this passage
Having the key to someone else’s cell does not make you free
When we as a society – and we as individuals play a part – in locking people away
that does not mean that we are free
Walter Cronkite, the US Journalist from last century famously said once
There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free
When we are working through so many different understandings of freedom
and so many ways where the limitations and ‘traps’ of life exist
we are invited to think of our own freedom
and the ways in which our own lives may be free, or captive
and the ways in which our lives are freedom, or making captive, others
The passage ends on the delightfully vague idea of “what do I do to be saved”
In the context of the story, maybe the question is asking us
What must I do to be saved from that which is destroying me?
What must I do to be saved from MY bondage, MY oppressive addition,
MY emptiness, MY boredom, MY abuse of others
Ronald Cole Turner suggests that “believing on the Lord Jesus”
is about being decisively aware that our own small lives
are swept up into the drama of God’s story line, made real in Jesus, the Christ.
God is reaching out to us in the places that we are trapped
and invites us to take the long walk to freedom.