"But Paul said to the officers: 'They beat us publicly without a trial... and threw us into prison. And now they want to get rid of us quietly?'" - Acts 16:37 (NIV)
In the ancient Greek city of Philippi, the traveling evangelists, Paul and Silas, had gotten into trouble for exorcising a disturbed spirit out of a young girl and thereby liberating her from the bondage of exploitation. When the girl's exploiters complained to city officials that the girl's deliverance was bad for city business, Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned.
But an earthquake at midnight set Paul and Silas free from their chains and gave them the opportunity to evangelize the jailer. The next day, the city officials sent emissaries to the jail with the order to release Paul and Silas immediately.
But Paul refused to be discreetly dismissed. He knew his rights as a Roman citizen, and he knew that he and Silas had been treated unjustly. Paul insisted that the city officials themselves came to escort him out, and thereby, acknowledge their injustice.
For the first time in U.S. history, most of the candidates in a major political party have come out in public support of reparations. Reparations refer to measures taken by the U.S. government to address the legacies of racial slavery and racial oppression in America.
There are many who advise that we should move beyond the indignities of the past and just be thankful that the U.S. holds an open door of opportunity before its black citizens in the present day. But like the Apostle Paul, African Americans will not be summarily dismissed. We know that without a clear acknowledgement of the injustices of our past, we cannot move forward in unity.
Lord help us to see how the denials of our past injure our present and future. Amen.
Small Group Discussion
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.