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. [from Acts 16]
It is hard to read a story about a girl in slavery without thinking of the three young women in Cleveland who were just freed after years of horrible captivity by a depraved man and his two brothers.
Though we find it impossible to imagine what they’ve been through, the heart of every decent person breaks at hearing just a few details of their story, and of those who rescued them. We all want the best for them as they try to put their lives back together. They will need every resource they can get.
Stories like this make us wonder: how many other people are there in similar situations? Held against their will by a stranger or by someone they should be able to trust (a parent, spouse, lover)? Caught up in human trafficking?
Or how about those who are simply fearful to speak their minds because they live with a controlling person? Who are unable to live their own lives because someone else tells them how it must be lived?
What of those who live in places where their civil liberties and basic human freedoms are denied by those with political power? Or who are wrongly imprisoned? Or people who are afraid to observe their own religion? Or those who are reluctant to walk down the street or to send their children to school because of violence?
When frightening stories make the news, they sometimes rock our world, because we just can’t imagine how one person can commit such evil against another.
The girl in the biblical story was set free from her internal prison, and she was no longer a pawn her “masters” could use.
Like Paul and the others, it’s our task to set the captives free, both from their internal and external prisons.
We have to keep our eyes open, and be ready to act.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2013