16One 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. 17While 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." 18She 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."
19But 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. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, "These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe." 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
We see in this passage a microcosm of city transformation. How so?
The transformation that's described here is not from beginning to end. We have, rather, the signs of transformation and the projection of that transformation into the future. This projection, however, is not wishful thinking. Historically speaking, this region, along with other areas, will undergo a "Christianization" to such an extent that what's described here -- divination, fortune-telling, worship of pagan gods, etc. -- will eventually disappear from the region's culture and be replaced by a "Christian" culture.
(Our family's recent trip to Rome brought home the same point when we toured the Roman Coliseum. The gladiatorial games that was the chief entertainment in the Coliseum eventually died out, because the growing Christian population in Rome no longer found such entertainment appropriate. Social pressure of a good kind killed the gladiatorial games!)
One observation we should note is that entrenched demonic powers are usually intertwined with an area's economy. The demonized, fortune-telling slave girl made money for her owners! That was why her owners were angry with Paul and Silas. "Their hope of making money was gone," the text says. And when such demonic practices are embedded in a way of living, those practices become parts of "culture" or "custom." The slave girl owners actually accuse Paul and Silas of "advocating customs" different from the Roman way.
So, the triad of demonic powers + economy + customs becomes a most formidable force in a city or a region. We can name cities around the world where such triads exist. Cities that make a ton of money on the sex industry. Cities that make money on drugs. Cities that make money on gambling. Cities that make money on the vice of greed and corruption. When the demonic is married to money and when people see certain questionable activities as part of culture, then we have a big problem on our hands.
But will the big problem last forever? The problem will persist if nothing else comes along to confront it. Therein lies the Hope of Transformation.
Something will come along. Something will come to confront. Something will come to expose the demonic powers lying behind the money making schemes.
That something is the triad of the Gospel + Holy Spirit + Kingdom Culture. We all know that in a power struggle, the stronger power wins. The stronger power in our case is the power of God. Is there a mightier power than this?
I don't think so.
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we come to you and lift up to you the cities of the world. We pray for the believers in these cities to engage you more deeply in prayer and adoration. We pray for the power of the Gospel of Christ to break in where such breaking in is the ultimate answer to a city's entrenched problems. We pray for the active ministry of the Holy Spirit to deliver people from their bondage to demonic powers. We pray for the Kingdom of God culture to shape the cities' churches. We pray that your culture of love, hope, honor, forgiveness, and mercy will truly reform the thinking of believers. Help us, O God. Bless Washington, DC and our area churches. In Jesus' name, Amen.