“And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And brought them to the magistrates, saying, ‘These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.’ And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely”
The legal/judicial system in the western world today is in very poor order indeed. In the United States, the FBI has been effectively weaponized not only against the reigning government’s political rivals, but against anyone who sides with them or even questions the decisions, actions, or philosophies of “the powers that be.” In Canada the situation is no better. Those that dared to stand up to federal tyranny through legal, peaceful protest, soon found themselves at the receiving end of a weaponized RCMP. The examples are as numerous as they are troubling. History repeats itself, and in the history of the world, very little is as common to man as governments devolving into destructive tyrannies. Many of the Bible heroes of old functioned under systems that routinely weaponized the legal-judicial system against them. Today’s verse passage, for instance, describes the fallout that occurred after Paul cast a demon of divination out of a servant girl who had made her masters rich through fortune-telling (Acts 16:16-18). The text is clear that her owners cared nothing about actual justice being served. Rather, they were upset that their (corrupt and ungodly) source of income was gone. They petitioned the government, claiming that the Christians were “troubling the city” (not true), and that they were encouraging Roman citizens to break the law (also not true). Without any sort of due process, Paul and Silas were savagely beaten and imprisoned. The irony here is that these people, supposedly acting in defense of Roman Law, actually broke the law in their treatment of these men (Acts 16:36-39). Paul’s response to such perversions of justice is instructive. While in prison, both he and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God, “and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25). Even though they had been thoroughly victimized by evil men, the two evangelists kept their eyes on the Lord and their ministry work. This was priority one for them. Even so, when given the opportunity, Paul thought it very appropriate to call the government into account—publicly—for the wrong they had done. May the Lord help us to emulate the attitude, priorities, and conduct of God’s special servants, for His glory, for the furtherance of the Gospel, and for the blessedness and good order of our land.