Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Demand an Apology

Well, okay, so that's not exactly how Paul put it.

Do you remember the story in Acts 16? Paul and Silas were preaching in Philippi. Paul cast the demon out of the fortune-telling girl, and her masters were majorly hacked off. So they went to the government, told lies about Paul's preaching (that he was teaching people to be subversive and to disobey the laws of the land), and had Paul thrown into prison. In the midst of the Christians' prayers and hymn-singing during the night, God sent an earthquake and opened the doors of the prison. The jailer was about to kill himself before his boss found out about the escaped prisoners and executed the poor jailer. But the prisoners were still there. They didn't save themselves when given an opportunity: they sacrificed their freedom for the sake of the jailer's life. That kind of love caught the jailer's attention. He heard their preaching, took them to his home, treated their wounds, and he and his whole household were baptized.

Okay, so the next morning the magistrates sent a message to the jailer to let these dudes go. The jailer told Paul and Silas they could be on their way.


What do you mean, "NO"????

They hadn't given Paul a trial. They beat him, uncondemned. They'd thrown him into prison for no reason. And now they wanted to shoo him out on the hush-hush. Paul said the government-guys were just going to have to come to the jail themselves and let him out -- they weren't going to get by with doing this in secret.

Was this snottiness? Was this revenge? Was this making them grovel and own up to their mistake?

I guess I'd never really thought it through before, but, yeah, that's kind of what I thought. But Pastor recently discussed a different (and more evangelical) reason for Paul's refusal to disappear quietly.

The public charge was that Paul preached against the government. The charge was that his preaching disrupted society. The charge was that his preaching was dangerous. But that's not true. As Jesus told Pilate at His trial, "My kingdom is not of this world." Christianity is no threat to the civil authorities. Paul wasn't wanting a personal apology. He wanted the authorities to publicly declare that Paul's teaching was not about insurrection or civil disobedience. And that was for the sake of the Gospel, not for the sake of mere human reputation. It was the honor of God --not self-defense-- that prompted Paul to wait for the magistrates themselves to come let him out of jail.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I think there might even have been a bit more at work. That he didn't leave even when asked, but took his time visiting with the saints in Philippi. I think he was sending a message to those magistrates: you mess with my people here and I just might have to inform on you. A form of blessed blackmail, if you will, to preserve the Church in some bit of earthly safety - at least for a while.