About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. Acts 16:25-34
When driving around town I have seen a bumper sticker with the message: “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”. That thought brings to mind outrageous examples of twisted accusations and legal proceedings launched to stop Jesus followers from offering the Good News and serving the needs of the oppressed.
The early part of Acts 16 describes Paul liberating a slave girl from the oppressive power of a fortune-telling demon in the name of Jesus. Because this act deprived her owners of income derived from the demon’s predictive powers, the owners launched a twisted and false accusation that Paul and Silas were leading an insurrection. The magistrates of Philippi then beat and jailed them without a trial. If that happened today, such a gross miscarriage of justice would make many of us angry!
Instead of anger rising to the surface at such evil treatment, the above passage describes Paul and Silas praying and singing after their beating and imprisonment as well as remaining in jail when it was clear God had arranged an earthquake to release them.
Why such counterintuitive behavior? The only explanation is Paul and Silas had learned to first seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in every situation. Their obedience opened a supernatural path to lead their jailer and his entire household to salvation in Jesus.
Although each injustice carried out on those who follow Jesus arises from different circumstances, the Holy Spirit is faithful to guide us to fruitful purposes as we respond in the way of Jesus.
Here are a few other situations recorded in Scripture that demonstrate one or more aspects of injustice toward godly, righteous people: 1) no crime committed, 2) false charges, 3) lack of a formal trial, 4) severe punishment/death/imprisonment in spite of no legal conviction:
- The prophet Jeremiah – Jeremiah 38
- John the Baptist – Matt 14:1-14
- Jesus – The last chapters of all the Gospels
- Stephen – Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:54-60
- Peter and John – Acts 4:1-17
- The Apostles – Acts 5:17-42
- James and Peter – Acts 12:1-19
Pick one of these situations and meditate on both the godly response of the righteous individual and the purpose God intended through their response to injustice.
By Kathleen Petersen