A Truthful Love

Phil Christman

Read: Acts 16:35-40

They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out. (v. 37)

Thus far, we have been looking at how the Bible portrays Paul’s experience in custody in order to know what it means to remember those in prison. Today’s Scripture presents Paul, still a prisoner, in a role that may make some of us uncomfortable: the one who lovingly confronts his oppressors with the truth about their own injustice.

Christian love, including the love of enemies, is sometimes presented—both by critics of Christianity and by Christians ourselves—as a kind of weakness or masochism. We still hear, for example, terrible stories of battered women being told by their pastors that “Christian love” requires them to stay and be silently beaten. Paul shows us a better way. He did not seek revenge; he did not ask God to smite the Philippians. He simply refused to let the system lie to itself about what it was doing. He insisted on staying where he was until the magistrates showed up in person to see their own botched handiwork.

Christian love forgives, but it doesn’t lie. It names mistreatment. And sometimes, in its honesty, it even embarrasses our fallen human systems into doing something like the right thing. —Phil Christman

Prayer: Lord, support those who have been unjustly treated and bring about righteousness through their witness. Save us from the pride that refuses to hear uncomfortable truths from the “wrong” mouths.