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Acts 16:16-34, Paul and Silas

Sunday, April 22

Work to Be Done

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

 beyond help

As a person involved with the addiction/recovery community, this story resonates so loudly. Paul and Silas were doing God’s work in Philippi when they encountered a girl with a spirit of divination, which she used to make money for her owners. She annoyed Paul and Silas, so they cast out the spirit. Here you might think the girl or her masters might have been grateful that she had been cleansed of a spirit, but they certainly were not. They didn’t want her to be healed – she brought them a lot of money. Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for disrupting the peace and for failing to follow the laws of the community.

Often when people are suffering from addiction, they do not want to be healed. Addiction is an illness of the brain – it influences a person’s thoughts and behaviors so that nothing – not family, not work, not abiding by laws – nothing gets in the way of using. Paul and Silas had the power of God on their side, and they healed the girl without her permission. We do not have that kind of power. We cannot heal another person of their addiction, no matter how much we might want to.

Paul’s and Silas’s response to their situation is incredibly apropos to the spirit of recovery. They didn’t allow themselves to get all wrapped up in the drama of the girl or her masters. They set their sights forward and they moved on. They converted the jailer who then freed them and offered them the hospitality they would never get from the girl or her masters. They worked with the people who were open to receiving their aid.

This is the hard part. Nobody can force another person to seek help for addiction. They can offer assistance, they can set healthy boundaries, and they can be there when the person decides to seek help. But they cannot do it for them. The best gift someone can give themselves if they are affected by a loved one’s addiction is to set their sights forward and move on. That is not to say they give up on the person – just that they disentangle themselves from the person’s illness and take care of themselves. Sometimes it means they must let go.

We live in a culture that is pretty good at encouraging codependence. But we are all healthier when we work toward independence and interdependence – working together alongside one another without becoming ensnared in each other’s drama. There’s much work to do in God’s world. We can set our sights on the people who are ready for assistance, and we can also ask others for help when we are ready.

For more information on addiction and recovery, check out http://www.aa.org/ and http://www.al-anon.org/.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 16:16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Earlier Event: April 21
Acts 10:23b-33, Peter and Cornelius
Later Event: April 23
Acts 16:35-40, Paul and Silas