Taking and Rescuing Hostages

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The taking of hostages is a favorite ploy of terrorists and criminals. Bank robbers often take hostages to shield themselves from police bullets. The terrorists of 9/11 took hundreds of hostages in four passenger planes, and all of them died in crashes. In 2006, a man took ten Amish school girls hostage and half of them were murdered. 23 Christian workers from Korea were taken hostage in Afghanistan and a couple of them were killed. Several hostages who had been held captive in Columbia for over 5 years, were rescued. We can expect to hear a lot more about hostage taking in the coming weeks, months and years because we have not yet won the war on terror.

The following incident actually happened:
  • Several men take a young girl hostage.
  • Although the men had already made a lot of money with their hostage, they refuse to release her.
  • This takes place in public and is known to all, yet no one comes to her aid.
  • Finally, two courageous young men manage to free the hostage without bloodshed.
  • Instead of being celebrated as heroes, the young men are arrested by the police, thrown into prison and treated like the worst of criminals.
  • They are given no opportunity to defend themselves and no proper court proceeding.
  • They are beaten and tortured by the authorities while a mob of cheering citizens watches the spectacle.

READ Acts 16:13-18

Hostage taking is often legal
In many Muslim nations, taking hostages, torturing them or even beheading them, is considered good and proper treatment for those who reject Islam.

It is estimated that over 400,000 girls who have been kidnapped or tricked by lucrative offers are held as prostitutes in Western Europe. No one cares. The lustful paying customers are happy about this situation as are the Ferrari-driving pimps who own them. Prostitution is a legal trade and authorities don’t meddle as long as taxes are paid.

In America too, hostage taking is often legal. Public schools financed by your tax Dollars take children hostage and brainwash them. Not far from where we live, casinos take people hostage along with their money. Many of our politicians have been taken hostage by the gay and lesbian movements and the ACLU. All of us know people who have been taken hostage by tobacco companies and breweries. A majority of Americans are hostages of their own TV, credit card companies and the media.

Christians are God’s hostage liberators
Like Christ, our goal is to seek and to save that which is lost. We seek to rescue Satan’s hostages from the brink of hell. Luke 4:18; 5:31-32.
We call this “missions” or “evangelism.” That is the primary purpose of the church.
If it were not for our God-given mission to free hostages, Jesus would have taken his disciples into heaven with him at his ascension.
There is no shortage of hostages that need freeing. There are plenty of people to rescue in America, but the need is greater in other countries.

Hostages don’t always want to be freed
We are called to be “fishers of men” but fish are not happy to be caught.

Jesus said that the fields are white unto harvest, but that is the opinion of the farmer, not the plants!

Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, few Russians wanted to be freed from Communism. They were brainwashed into thinking that they were better off and that Americans were evil.

Iraqis rejoiced in the overthrow of Sadaam’s government, but most of them didn’t want democracy. They wanted their own brand of dictatorship, either Shiite or Sunni.

Doctors and psychologists agree that cigarettes, alcohol and hard drugs can lead to poor health or even death, but many addicts don’t want to be freed.

Few sinners are looking for salvation. They cry out for money, for things, for freedom to do as they please, and they may yearn for sympathy when things take a turn for the worse, but seldom do they want to be rescued. It happens but is extremely rare.

I operated a print shop in Austria for many years. We printed tracts and evangelistic literature, but never expected the unsaved to pay the printing costs. It was difficult enough to find Christians willing to pay.

John has much to say about this situation: John 1:5-11: And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not… v.10-11: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Chapter 3:19-20: And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Chapter 12:35: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Freeing hostages can be dangerous! READ Acts 16:19-24

Paul had quite a criminal record! II Corinthians 11:23-33: In spite of all his hard work, he received many beatings; 3 times with rods, 5 times 39 lashes with the cat of nine tails (maximum allowed by law)
He was frequently imprisoned. When Paul came into a town, he didn’t ask where the Holiday Inn was located. He probably wondered what the jail would be like!)
He was often close to death. He was stoned, shipwrecked 3 times, and spent a day and night adrift at sea.
He was constantly in great danger in all his missionary journeys; whether in cities or the desert; on the road or at sea. He was threatened by robbers, by the heathen, by fellow Jews and by false brethren. He knew what it was like to be totally exhausted, to suffer intense pain, to experience hunger and thirst; and to be stripped naked and locked in a clammy, cold prison cell.
Besides all that he willingly brought discomfort upon himself with frequent fasting, praying through the night, preparing sermons and writing epistles in spite of his poor eyesight.
Then there was the constant care for all the churches he planted and visited, not to mention the offenses he suffered.
He was falsely accused, slandered and mistreated.
In what seems like an afterthought, Paul adds, In Damascus the governor sent a garrison to apprehend me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped.

Are you more concerned about your own comfort or what people think of you than the plight of Satan’s hostages?

Acts 16:13: The first thing Paul did when he got to Philippi was attend a prayer meeting. Do you attend prayer meeting, or do you consider that to be something for women and seniors?

Secondly, Paul shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. He taught them the Word of God and a revival broke out! A Turkish woman named Lydia was saved first and then her family and probably others.

Paul’s third step was conducting a baptismal service. They were meeting by the river; how convenient!

Lydia decided the riverside was not the best place to meet, so she invited everybody to her house. According to verses 16-18, they were soon meeting daily for prayer.

It was on the way to prayer that Paul and those with him kept meeting the girl possessed of an unclean spirit.

How did Paul know that? Read verse 17!

The devil sometimes goes around like a roaring lion, but he more often comes as an angel of light or camouflaged as one of the sheep of the fold, singing worship songs and talking piously.

How would you have reacted in the above situation?

"Not my business!"

"Mention it in prayer meeting."

“Someone should do something!”

Verse 18: There is only one proper reaction: To act in the power of the Holy Spirit. In order to do this, we must have a right relationship with God. There is not always time to pray, seek God’s will or to set things right with others when opportunity knocks. We should be prepared.

Paul was disturbed, but what about his colleagues? We really don't know, but someone had to take the lead, to motivate.

Freeing Hostages demands faith and there may be uncomfortable consequences. Acts 16:25-40.

How did they react? Martyr complex? Resignation? Anger? Frustration? NO! They sang hymns all night!

Where was God in all this? They might have argued, “We tried to do the right thing, but it didn’t help! God failed us!”

If it was me instead of Paul, Acts 16:25-27 might read as follows:

The disciples grumbled and complained about the injustices they were experiencing until the other prisoners told them to shut up so they could get some sleep. At midnight there was suddenly a great earthquake. At first the Christians thought, “Now we are going to die! Doesn’t God care about us at all?" When the earthquake subsided, the Christians saw that their chains had fallen off and all the gates and doors were ajar. “Finally,” they said, “God has come to our aid!” In a moment, they stood up and fled from the prison as fast as their legs could carry them. The other prisoners also fled and when the keeper saw this, he drew his sword and committed suicide. The other prisoners, the jailor and his family, and everyone else involved in this terrible incident were eternally lost. No church was founded in Philippi and the disciples asked each other why God allowed all this to happen. The disciples were soon reunited with their friends, families and church. They shared their experiences and everyone agreed, “Let that be a lesson to us all. Don’t ever try to free hostages!”

Fortunately, Paul was not like many of us.
In verse 21, the masters of the possessed girl argued that they were Roman citizens and accused Paul of being a Jew. Paul could have shown the authorities his passport and everything would have been okay! You don’t throw Roman citizens in jail without a fair trial or mistreat them! Later on, Paul did show the authorities that he was a Roman citizen. He waited until the timing was right and it was beneficial for the new Church in Philippi.

Christians are plagued by three major problems:

Problem Nr. 1 is our lack of trust in God.
We believe in God, but we don’t trust him! If we trusted God, we would obey him. Instead of obeying God, we live under Murphy’s Law -- We don’t expect God to give victory.
We want instant gratification of our personal needs and wants, but we don’t trust God to supply them. We think we have to do it ourselves even though he promised he would care for us (Matthew 6:33; Phil. 4:19).

Problem Nr. 2 is our self-centeredness.
We are not God-focused, but rather obsessed with our image and reputation in the world. We care more about what others think of us than what God expects of us. We are thankful for our salvation, but really don’t care that millions of others are eternally lost. Like Jonah sitting under the gourd, we say, “I knew all along that this job stinks! First the storm, then the fish and the vomiting. Finally, God changed his mind and isn’t going to destroy those horrible Ninevites after all!”

I recall seeing a sign in a Flemington, NJ ice cream shop at the outbreak of the war in Iraq: “Kill them all – let God sort it out!”

Problem Nr. 3 is idolatry.
Since retiring from missionary service in Austria, we have been involved in a recruiting ministry. I must confess that we are not very successful, mainly because of idolatry. You may think that idolatry is a sin of the ancient Babylonians and Persians, but it is also the greatest sin in America, even among Christians! The New Testament defines idolatry as materialism – greed – covetousness (I Corinthians 10:7 & 14; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). In Acts 17:16, we find Paul in Athens. When he looks around the city, his reaction is similar to his reaction when he saw the girl being held captive by the devil. His spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

Young people are generally obsessed with material things, but this is often inherited from their parents, who worship gods of gold, silver, stone and wood. They bow in obeisance to gods made by men rather than becoming conformed to God’s image. Like the rich farmer of Luke 12, they say to their soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry."

Revelation tells us that we are to be “overcomers.“ Christians must learn to overcome these three major problems. How did Israel overcome idolatry in the Old Testament? They smashed their idols, ground them to powder and spread the ashes on the graves in Kidron Valley!

Jesus said in Matthew 18:8-9: “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”

Ralph V. Harvey