Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed 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. Acts 16:16-18
I can’t help but find humor in the scriptures, and this little story is yet another example of that. Here we see a demon-possessed woman recommending following Paul and Silas, shouting affirmation of their message. At first, one might think that this is a story about God’s power to cause the demon to do this; like an older sibling might grab the arm of a younger, then use it to smack them while saying, “Why are you hitting yourself?” God could do that to this demon, but there seems to be something more going on here.
Strangely, Paul is not thrilled by the marketing efforts of this afflicted girl. That begs the question: why, if she is speaking the truth? After all, she is speaking the truth!
There is some hidden motive for the actions of this demon through her. The only explanation is that her persistence is a distraction from what God is trying to accomplish in the town. The conclusion is that not all correct theology is well-spoken. This demon-possessed girl is right in her theology, but it was designed to distract. Paul has the wisdom to set her free from the influence of the distracting spirit.
The question for us is, can an over-emphasis on correct belief sometimes distract us from what God is doing in the world? The goal of Christianity is not to get all the facts right; it is to stay in step with God. The risk we run when we overemphasize theological correctness is that we lose the usefulness of truth. Correct theology is only good if it helps us live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.
Take a moment to reflect on the past few days. Was there a moment when you stood up for a belief while hurting someone? For me, this often comes in moments of conflict with a loved one—the desire to right often causes us to damage the relationships around us. If you have a moment like this, or recognize a tendency to speak the truth without love, pray a prayer of confession and ask God to help you speak his truth in a loving spirit.
By Aaron Bjorklund