These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice. Acts 16:20-21
Addicts can be expert manipulators. Though they’re clearly in the wrong, they’ll somehow turn things around to point out your faults. Unable and unwilling to face their own toxic behavior, they’ll distract from the real issue by focusing on anything but their own addiction. They don’t have a problem, it’s everyone else who has the problem. They’ll masterfully turn the spotlight on anything and everything but their own disastrous life.
I’ve done this. As someone once approached my addiction (which was supposed to be a secret) by suggesting that I had an issue, I turned the tables, making him out to be the problem. I played the victim, falsely accused and defamed by baseless accusations. Eventually, my lies caught up with me, but for a while at least, I was able to distract, maintaining my addiction just a little longer.
This kind of manipulation is what happened in today’s passage. In the story, Paul and Silas delivered a slave girl who’d been possessed by a spirit that predicted the future, providing her owners with financial gain. When Paul cast the spirit out of her, the girl’s owners realized their source of income was gone. So, they dragged Paul and Silas before the local authorities, claiming they were instigators and agitators. They didn’t mention their loss of profits. They didn’t bring up their exploitation of the girl. No, instead, they made up a case about Paul and Silas being rebels against the Roman government.
Most of us have been on both sides of this. On one side, we’ve been blamed for things that are clearly not our fault. On the other side, instead of addressing our own flaws, we’ve blamed other for them. I wouldn’t be so angry if you weren’t so infuriating!
We cannot control what others do. There are times when we’re powerless to prevent others from blaming us. All we can do is stick to the truth, praying that the manipulator will eventually see it. We are, however, always responsible for our own behavior. Continually, we must strive for honesty, refusing to blame others for our problems. Just as we don’t control anyone else’s behavior, we must realize that they don’t control ours and that we alone are responsible for our actions.