An exploited girl
She was young – probably under 13; she was likely under the influence of a drug – or more – which caused her mantic behavior; and she was alone – although her owners, like pimps, watched over her closely as their profitable asset.
Here's how Luke reports the incident (Acts 16:16-19):
One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl [paidiskē] ran into us. She was a psychic [spirit of divination or python] and, with her fortunetelling [mantheuomai], made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone's attention to us by yelling out, "These men are working for the Most High God. They're laying out the road of salvation for you!" She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, "Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!" And it was gone, just like that.
When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. (from The Message)
The Greek word paidiskē means a young enslaved girl; mantheuomai, translated "fortunetelling" gives us the word "mantic"; and "psychic" is literally "spirit of Python" – referring to the temple of Apollo at Delphi. The oracles or pythia at Delphi delivered their predictions in a frenzied state induced by some intoxicating substance, possibly ethylene.
This unnamed young girl could be living in any modern city, exploited and enslaved in prostitution or some other capacity. How do we connect with someone from this kind of culture?
Earlier, we explored the three forces that shape cultures: fear, guilt, and shame. One of these forces dominates any given culture.
Which of these forces shapes the culture inhabited by this young girl?
My analysis is that her culture is dominated by fear.
Fear is the force that holds sway over social units that have shamans, and are engaged with animism and the occult. In Western societies, gangs exhibit most of the aspects of a fear-based culture.
For followers of Jesus, the way to connect with people in a fear-based culture is through power – the power of God expressed in and through Jesus Christ.
This power of God is demonstrated by Paul (Acts 16:18 NIV):
Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.
This young exploited girl was released or freed immediately from the enslaving "spirit" by the power of God. Paul's words were a command "in the name of Jesus Christ." Although it is not stated specifically, my leaning is that this young girl also experienced the deliverance or salvation of God and became a follower of Jesus.
A modern example
A traditional Western culture is usually dominated by guilt rather than fear. As such the gospel is proclaimed in a manner that focuses upon the "righteousness of God" rather than the "power of God."
The incident of the young enslaved girl reminds us that we need to proclaim the gospel in a culture of fear with the power of God. So I'm not misunderstood, there is only one true gospel. However, there are different ways in which to proclaim this one gospel: for cultures of guilt the focus is God's righteousness; for shame it is God's honor; for fear it is God's power – all in and through Jesus Christ.
Jackie Pullinger is a modern-day example of proclaiming the power of God in a culture of fear.
Since 1966, Jackie has been a servant of Jesus Christ among Hong Kong's gang members, prostitutes, and drug addicts. She has lived and spoken into the lives of these people with the power of God in and through Jesus Christ. As a result many have been released from their slaveries and have become followers of Jesus.
Her book, Chasing the Dragon: One Woman's Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong's Drug Dens is on my list of books to read.
A couple who had immigrated to Canada related to me how they became followers of Jesus.
They came from another country where they had lived in a Hindu culture. One of their family members was sick to the point of death. Neither the medical doctor nor the Hindu priest was able to help.
The husband invited two Christian workmates to help. They came to his home where they prayed for the sick family member in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The sick person recovered fully.
To this man and his family, the unmistakable response to the prayers of two followers of Jesus was a demonstration of the power of the one true God revealed as Jesus Christ. As a result that man and his family came to faith in Christ.
A typical North American or European will be skeptical of this approach to evangelism. Although we may be jaded by shams in our traditional Western cultures, we should challenge our skepticism, especially when it comes to evidences of God's power in fear-based cultures.
I suspect that most reading this blog are from traditional Western cultures – although I'd love to be proven wrong on that.
We are either highly skeptical or woefully unequipped in the area of spiritual conflict – or both. It is not something to dabble in or play with – it is serious business. Seek a brother or sister who has biblically-based experience in this realm.
A helpful article on spiritual warfare entitled "Spiritual Warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20)" can be found on the Bible.org website.
Some connecting points
Here are a four points for connecting with those who live in cultures dominated by fear:
1. Be aware that the power of God is greater than any other power that exists. For the follower of Jesus, it is true that "you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (read 1 John 4:1-6).
2. Be prayerful and discerning about what force dominates the culture of the person with whom you are seeking to connect. Is the dominant force guilt, or fear, or shame. See "Forces that shape cultures" and related links. Consider reading Roland Müller's book, The Messenger, the Message, and the Community.
3. Be sensitive to the three absolutes that are real and active in the lives of others.
4. Be "walking as Jesus walked" (1 John 2:6). This means being a living and loving ambassador of Jesus Christ demonstrating by your life what the righteousness of God is, and what the power of God is, and what the honor of God is. This fits with the words of Francis of Assisi: "Always preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words."
So, what do you think? How would you connect with a person living in a culture of fear?
Next week I want to look at the third person we are introduced to at Philippi.
Until next Friday,
John, a brother
 The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. NavPress, 2002.
 Roland Müller, The Messenger, the Message, and the Community (CanBooks, 2006). A new edition is now available.
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