Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Peace be with you!
For every decision you make, there is a consequence – good, bad, or indifferent. As a student, you make the decision whether to do your homework and whether to study for your tests. When you do your homework and study, you get good grades, into the college you want, and scholarships for college. But if you do not do homework and study, you get bad grades and colleges turn you down. Of course, there are exceptions to the rules. Schoolwork comes easily to some students and they can take half the time of other students to get the same grades.
As adults, we face decisions every day. We decide whether to pay our bills, to take a shower daily, to eat healthy, and more. We make decisions every day which affect our not only our lives, but also the lives of others around us, especially our dependent children and elderly parents.
Societies also make decisions regarding the moral codes and laws of the group. They decide who is an insider and who is an outsider. In the United States of America, many states are voting on whether or not gay marriage should be legalized and if gay couples should be granted the same benefits of straight couples. No matter what side you stand on in this debate, there is a part of you that feels threatened by the opposing side. Those who oppose the amendments feel their sense of family values is being challenged. Supporters of the amendments, especially gays and lesbians, fear being outcasts for loving someone of the same gender or supporting friends who are gay or lesbian.
Christians find themselves in two worlds at times. The Bible teaches us a moral code to live by; it teaches us the Ten Commandments and the value of loving our neighbor. Societies have many of the same moral codes: no killing or stealing. Yet there are places where societies and the Bible contradict each other. For instance, what is more important: success and money or God and living in a community with other Christians? As Americans, the society says success and money are important to one’s livelihood. How much money you have determines what you can do and where you can live. As Christians, the Bible teaches us having a relationship with God and living in community with other Christians are the most important. We value the love, grace, forgiveness, and promise of eternal life that the Triune God gives to us freely.
In today’s reading, Paul and Silas are caught in the cross fire between the world and the Lord. A woman who is possessed with a spirit of divination keeps bothering the two men while they are in the city for days – proclaiming Paul and Silas are slaves of the Most High (Acts 16:16-17). Finally, Paul has enough of the woman – or maybe of the spirit of divination – bothering them, so he orders it to come out of her (Acts 16:18).
The woman’s slave owner is greatly upset with Paul for releasing her from the spirit of divination. When the spirit of divination was in the woman, the slave owner made a lot of money from the woman’s fortune-telling (Acts 16:16, 19). Paul takes away the slave owner’s source of income by releasing the woman from the spirit of divination and imposes economic hardship on him. For Paul’s “wrong doing,” the slave owner takes Paul and Silas to the Roman officials and charges them with disturbing the peace and advocating for unlawful activities (Acts 16:20-21). The Roman officials order Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown into jail (Acts 16:22-23).
We have all been where Paul and Silas are – at odds with others for doing a good deed. When we give loose change to the beggar on the corner, we are told that we are advocating laziness. When we take an extended leave from work to care for a parent who needs care, our sibling criticizes us for kissing up and tells us to just put them in a nursing home. No matter what we do, someone will criticize us.
Paul and Silas give us a great example to live by when facing criticism: sing praises to the Lord (Acts 16:25). Paul and Silas are in the most inner jail cell with shackles around their ankles, tied to the wall, singing praises to the Lord (Acts 16:24-25). Who does that? Paul and Silas show the Lord their thankfulness for all he has provided them.
The Lord hears Paul and Silas, and there is an earthquake causing the jail doors to open and the chains to be unlocked releasing the prisoners (Acts 16:26). Upon seeing the damage of the earthquake, the jailer threatens suicide until Paul says we are all here (Acts 16:27-28). The jailer is overwhelmed with gratitude for if Paul and Silas escaped, he would have lost his job.
The jailer asks how he can be saved (Acts 16:30). Obviously the jailer listened to Paul and Silas singing praises to the Lord and felt the earthquake was the answer to their prayers. Paul and Silas spoke to the jailer about the grace, love, and forgiveness of God the Father and told him to believe in the Lord and he would be saved (Acts 16:31-32). The jailer released Paul and Silas and took them to his house to clean their wounds (Acts 16:33a). Upon hearing the good news, the jailer and his household got baptized and celebrated with Paul and Silas (Acts 16:33b-34).
I am always amazed at how the Lord uses the most unlikely situations to share the good news through us, his children. I was running late to my flight a few months ago when I realized I did not have my cell phone. I quickly scanned my surroundings looking for someone to ask to call my cell phone and my step-dad. I decided to ask a family, and they were more than willing to help. Unfortunately, by the time we got a hold of my step-dad on my cell phone, he was already twenty minutes away. Luckily, I had my iPad, which I could use to send my friends texts. The Lord used my forgetfulness to show a random family how he had blessed me, despite my disability. The family was amazed at how I could use my iPad to communicate with them and my friends. I was also able to share my website and the good news with them.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for helping us to make decisions according to your will. Help us to share the good news in difficult places and situations. May we sing your praises, even when we are being criticized. Remind us the good news is for everyone, not just a lucky few. Thank you for using us to share the good news. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How are you criticized as a Christian?
2. What unexpected place did you share the good news?