Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 65; 147:1-11, 2 Samuel 3:22-39, Acts 16:16-24, Mark 6:47-56
Slaves were common throughout the Roman empire, but one day Paul and company encountered an extraordinary slave girl: she was possessed by a demon who told the future, which made her owners a lot of money. For days she followed the disciples, declaring “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” When an annoyed Paul cast out the spirit in the name of Christ, her owners – furious about the loss of their treasure – accused the disciples of unlawful practices. Silas and Barnabas were beaten and jailed.
We don’t know the fate of the slave girl, but she is a potent symbol of what it means to find freedom in Christ. At the most basic level she was freed from the spirit which possessed her, much like we find freedom from our old lives through the miracle of grace.
She was also freed from that which made her exploitable. When we embrace what it means to be forgiven and loved by God, we release those things which the world can use to take advantage of us. The world is always ready to exploit our guilt, fear, anger, and weaknesses. When instead we offer it repentance, a love which casts out fear, forgiveness, and a strength derived from Christ, the world no longer knows what to do with us. If it can’t use us for ill-gotten gains of power and wealth – and if it suspects we are spreading the good news that no one else has to be enslaved by greed and violence either – it will do its best to discredit and silence us.
When we don’t fear what the world fears, the world fears us.
Like the slave girl, we are doubly free … but that doesn’t guarantee our physical safety or freedom. To the contrary it may put both in danger. Yet Paul and the disciples who knew Christ couldn’t imagine choosing anything but that dangerous freedom.
When we can’t be exploited, and we love too much to exploit others, we are living in the Kingdom and confounding the world.
Read about today’s scripture from Mark in Riding Out The Storms.
Comfort: In Christ we find true freedom.
Challenge: We’ve done this challenge before, but human trafficking is a huge problem that needs more awareness. Find out if there are an resources in your community to combat human trafficking. You may want to start at traffickingresourcecenter.org .
Prayer: Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. (Psalm 125:4)
Discussion: Which of your fears or weaknesses do you feel are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by the media, advertisers, or people seeking power?
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