Archive for November 27th, 2007

Beyond Myself

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Today’s scripture: Acts 16:25-40 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Melody Merida):

Today we pick up the story from yesterday. Paul and Silas are imprisoned after the owners of the slave girl had them arrested for teaching things contrary to Roman law. (In reality, the slave owners had them arrested because their source of income was now gone — but that wouldn’t fly in court!)

Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten, and had their feet fastened in stocks. It doesn’t get much darker than that. But here is where the story begins to take on something resembling a Hollywood movie script! Paul and Silas didn’t seem bothered by their circumstances; they were singing and praising God while the other prisoners listened. An earthquake shook the prison and the prison doors opened and their chains fell off. They stopped the jailer from taking his own life and ministered to him and his family later at the jailer’s home. Many times I have stopped reading at this point of the story. Let’s face it; this is a pretty remarkable story already.

But wait, there’s more! There is the great Hollywood movie twist at the end. The next morning the rulers in Philippi told Paul and Silas they were free to go, quietly. Paul refused because he was a Roman citizen who had been beaten publicly without a trial. He wanted a personal escort out of the prison. Of course, the rulers had no choice but to oblige. So Paul and Silas were escorted out of the prison by the chief magistrate, exonerated. Score one for the little guys!

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t usually delve into this story much past the point of the relationship between the missionaries and the jailer. There is so much to learn about faith and rejoicing in hope in the first part of the story.

But for some reason today I’m struck by the bravery of Paul at the end of the story. He could have thanked the magistrates for his quiet release and been on his way, but instead he knew that he had to send a message to counter the ill effects the public beating would have done the day before. If he had just walked out of the prison quietly, that story wouldn’t have made the evening news like the beating from the night before had. Paul knew that it was important for the other believers in the city to see that he had been found innocent and freed by the leaders.

But it was risky. What if the magistrate didn’t take kindly to this rebuke and had reacted badly? He could have made a lot of trouble for Paul and Silas — thrown them back in jail, or worse. Paul took a gamble for the sake of someone else. What an example of bravery and self-sacrifice!

I wonder what I would have done in that same situation — what would you have done? The truth is that many times I don’t even want to risk losing the remote control to someone else, let alone my freedom. We live in a “me first” world. When we get caught up in it, we can’t see outside of ourselves and what we want. There are so many things that we can learn from Paul, but his bravery and willingness to stick his neck out for others is at the top of the list.

Thought for the day: What can we do today to be a little more like Paul and Silas? Let’s put ourselves aside today and show bravery on behalf of someone else.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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