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"At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, 'Release these men.' The jailer gave Paul the message, 'The judges sent word that you're free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!' "But Paul wouldn't budge. He told the officers, 'They beat us up in public, and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want us to get out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.'" Acts 16:35-37 (The Message).
Hey, Paul! I thought you were supposed to be meek and humble, and take abuse without complaining, like Jesus did.
Why did Paul pull rank on these judges? Should they not have simply left quietly as though nothing had happened; turned the other cheek as Jesus taught His disciples?
Is that really what He taught? Does Jesus want His disciples to be jellyfish, pushovers?
What exactly did Jesus mean when He said, 'Turn the other cheek'? If someone slapped another person on the right cheek, it was meant as an insult. To slap him on the right cheek, he had to use his left hand which was considered unclean because the left hand was used for toilet purposes. To turn the other cheek meant that he had to slap the other person with his right hand, forcing him to acknowledge that they were equals.
When Israel was rescued from slavery in Egypt, they had to unlearn centuries of abuse from their Egyptian masters in a new society where they were free. God built into their constitution and culture a new way of life where He taught them to treat one another with human dignity, recognising that every person was created in the image of God.
God hates oppression of any kind and, in the case of Paul and Silas, the Roman judges differentiated between Romans and Jews. They got the Jewish end of the stick because their oppressors hadn't taken the trouble to carry out their job properly. Paul wanted the Roman judges to acknowledge their unjust treatment by publicly escorting them from the prison where they had been publicly humiliated by the treatment they had received.
Good for you, Paul! It was a lesson these arrogant Romans would not easily forget. Perhaps they were saving someone else from being treated as they had been treated.
"When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They hurried over and apologised, personally escorting them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn't please leave the city. Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia's house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way." Acts 16:38-40 (The message).
Apparently, although this kind of behaviour was common practice, it was not Roman policy. The judges were using their position of power to abuse Jews whom they despised. If the authorities got to hear about it, they were in big trouble. Mistreating non-Romans was bad enough but mistreating Roman citizens, Jews or no Jews, was serious.
They not only personally escorted Paul and Silas out of jail, they also wanted them out of the city because they were a source of embarrassment to them. Having got the justice they deserved and taught these men a lesson, Paul and Silas reported back to Lydia who was their hostess and must have wondered what had happened to them, encouraged the fledgling believers and then went on their way as requested.
But it was not the last that Philippi had seen of them. There was a baby church to nurture and Paul had no intention of abandoning them, judges or no judges.
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