“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
Well, we’ve been quarantined for awhile now, and much of Texas has gotten restless. So restless, in fact, that as of Friday, May 1, many restrictions have been lifted here (with the exception of a few guidelines regarding capacity and whatnot). But for our family, I can’t say that much has changed—if anything. It can be hard to put into words exactly why this is. But I just listened to a sermon that I think will help.
Long story short, Paul and Silas had been flogged and beaten and thrown into jail for delivering a woman from an evil spirit (no good deed goes unpunished, right?). And as any of us would (not) do when wrongfully accused and detained, they spent the night singing hymns. But they were interrupted by a huge earthquake that shook the prison’s foundations and flung the doors wide open.
Now, the obvious thing to do with this fortuitous freedom would be to flee. That would have been the fair thing to do, as they were being wrongfully imprisoned in the first place. It would have been the convenient thing to do, because they could have gotten back about their mission more quickly. It would have been the comfortable thing to do; I mean, who wants to be sitting in a nasty, stinky prison full of God knows what kind of vermin. But they didn’t flee…why?
Because of the jailer. He had already been threatened with his life should anything happen to the prisoners, and to avoid this, he was all ready to take his own life instead. So one way or another, he was going to die. And worse, he was going to die without Jesus. We know this because when he found out that the prisoners were still there, and that they had willingly given up their freedom to save his life, he “fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:29-30). Ultimately, he and his entire family were saved and baptized, and were filled with joy.
Paul and Silas could have chosen to act in their own self-interest. But they didn’t. They followed their own advice: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). And that’s my reason, too. If one person, or one family, has an opportunity to live one more day—a day that may by God’s grace be the day of their salvation—because of what I do with my freedom, then who am I to be behindhand?
And look, I fully recognize that staying home is a privilege that is not afforded everyone. Some are essential workers and have been fighting on the front lines for the rest of us this whole time. And now that other industries are opening back up, I realize that some who have been struggling to make ends meet finally have the opportunity to begin providing for their families again. Still others are probably being forced to go back to work, against their will, for fear of losing their jobs.
But I can’t help but feel (and see the evidence around me) that this is not the case for everyone. That sermon I mentioned, it highlighted the point that Paul and Silas both had and took the opportunity to choose a better story, and a better outcome—a better YES, if you will. When this is all said and done, I have hope that my temporary disappointments, struggles, and sacrifices will have amounted to a better story—and “a glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17)!
Be well. Be safe.