One easily missed detail in Acts 16 is the switch to the pronoun “we” in verse 10. From here on out, Luke is talking about events that he personally witnessed and was a partner in.
That might seem like some expected or insignificant, but in the ancient world eyewitness accounts are remarkably rare. We know about the lives of most of Rome’s emperors because of historians writing centuries after the events occurred. Accounts written only one hundred years after the events happened are rare. The New Testament represents one of the best sources of eyewitness testimony in the pre-modern era - which is a big part of why we, as Christians, can rely on its accuracy.
Now, back to the text.
All of us have been in situations where we were treated unfairly. Maybe a teacher or parent was too harsh because they were in a bad mood. Perhaps a sibling blamed us for their own mistake and we got punished.
Chances are that when that happened, you wanted to get even. You wanted to see the other person suffer, or, at the very least, you were in no mood to help them out. If you saw them get in trouble or get hurt soon after, you might even feel a bit of a victorious thrill. “Ha! They got what was coming to them!”
No doubt that Paul and Silas felt the same temptation that night in a Macedonian jail. They had been arrested for healing a demon-possessed girl, illegally beaten by the authorities and now chained up in prison despite the fact they hadn’t committed a crime. When the jail doors opened by God’s power and they saw the jailer about to “get his just deserts,” a lot of people wouldn’t have judged them for letting him harm himself.
But Paul didn’t. Paul treated the man with kindness, and the man’s entire family was saved as a result. Paul knew that, though the desire for payback is natural, as Christians we are held to a higher standard. “Eye for an eye” isn’t Christ’s command; we are told to “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” As Jesus tells us in John 13:35, this love - unconditionally, universal and self-sacrificing - is the way that the world will know that we truly follow Him. The jailer knew Paul was different by his act of love and compassion, and it changed his life and the lives of countless others.
What opportunities will God place in your life today to have that same impact? Will you be ready to reach out with His love and grace when they do?