A Captor Captivated

Phil Christman

Read: Acts 16:28-34

But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” (v. 29)

Before Paul even walked through the miraculously opened doors of his prison, his first thought was for his captor. His cellmates, suddenly delivered, were still standing there when he called out to his guard. (I’d be six blocks away already.) Their continued presence was a greater miracle than any earthquake.

The text’s details are fascinating. Why was the jailer asleep? Was he struck unconscious by falling debris? Did he take a nap every night at this time? Was he just another person who took the job he could get, a job that, it may be, makes him work so many hours that he sleeps through an earthquake? Evidently, he so feared the government he served that his first response to a mass jailbreak was attempted suicide. This man may not have been a prisoner, but he was not free. He was caught up in an oppressive system, both bullied and a bully.

Perhaps Paul saw in the man something of the zealous persecutor he had been before his conversion—for Paul, too, had been a guard of sorts, patrolling the boundary between “good” and “bad” Judaism. Or perhaps Paul merely loved the jailer for being an image bearer of God. In any case, his compassion and quick thinking, and that of his cellmates, made for the salvation of this man and his family. This is God’s justice: not revenge but reconciliation. —Phil Christman

Prayer: Lord, forgive our oppressors, and where we ourselves are also oppressors, bring us to repentance.