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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Today’s Reading | Acts 16:25–40

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

When morning came, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported the message to Paul, saying, “The magistrates sent word to let you go; therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul replied, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens; so they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. After leaving the prison they went to Lydia’s home; and when they had seen and encouraged the brothers and sisters there, they departed. (NRSV)


Why don’t Paul and Silas run? I mean, that’s a no-brainer: you’re whipped and thrown into prison, you pray, all of a sudden there’s an earthquake, and the walls come a tumblin’ down. The next step is to beat feet, right? God has set you free; you don’t need an engraved invitation. But they don’t run.

Of course, if they had run, the jailer would have killed himself. So there’s that. But even after they take care of him and stay put so he’s not blamed, when their release warrant comes they still don’t go. In fact, Paul give the magistrates some lip in return: No, Skippy, you don’t throw us in jail publicly and release us privately. You get yourself down here and do it in person.” And the magistrates have to come down and face the two men they had unjustly brutalized.

And that’s why they didn’t run: they intended to hold the institutions of power accountable for their abuses.

Power makes a show of exercising power. Let me correct that: insecure power makes a show of exercising power. Insecure power needs a demonstration, needs to make examples, cannot—under any circumstances—admit it was wrong to do so. To do so would require a degree of moral courage that insecure institutions of power do not possess. It would require a sense of justice.

We don’t have to look far to see institutions dodging accountability for their lack of justice. It’s up to us to say to these institutions of power—be they political, social, or economic—“No, you don’t get to dodge. You get down here and do the right thing and be accountable for your actions.”


Lord, give us the strength to hold power accountable to justice. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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