This morning I was reading through Acts when I happened on a particular verse that says, "And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds" (16:33a). I picked up my pen immediately and wrote in the margin of my Bible, "Something about this blesses me to no end.”
Perhaps the reason is a jail-guard washing a prisoner's wounds is just too much. Too compassionate. Too sweet. Too loving. Too upside down.
But is this not how our gracious God transforms hearts? Does He not redeem those in authority by transforming them into compassionate servants? Does He not work in such a way that people who are careless become caring, and those with hardened hearts get cracked wide open to authentically love people? Is this not the Gospel at work?
What's wild is this same jail guard nearly killed himself mere moments before he washed Paul and Silas' wounds. He thought they had fled while he was sleeping on the job. He certainly had good reason to when—he awoke to the prison doors being open—and everyone's chains sat there unfastened. Who wouldn't be afraid of their boss finding them at fault? Especially in those days; days of brutal punishment for wrongdoings.
Yet, out of nowhere, the jailer hears the Apostle Paul say, "Do yourself no harm, for we're all here!"
Can you imagine the shock reverberating through his system?
Paul saved his scrawny neck for crying aloud!
No wonder the jailer was so quick to reciprocate the kindness by washing Paul and Silas' wounds; wounds they sustained while wrongly accused, beaten with rods, and thrown into the inner courts of prison.
I love how God takes wrongs and makes them right.
Oh, friend. Talk about a true story we could get lost in!
What we need to know is these were no ordinary prisoners, the Apostle Paul and Silas. At one time, Paul was known not as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was Saul, a brutal religious fanatic. Just like the chief magistrates had mistreated Paul and Silas, the Apostle understood what it was like to victimize people wrongly. At one time he was a venomous man who thought he was wildly living for God while breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's beloved people.
So much so, get this—
Acts 7:59-60 tells us, "And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them! And having said this, he fell asleep." "And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death." Then, we are told, "Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them into prison" (Acts 8:1,3).
Do you, like me, find it fascinating how this once wicked man is now sharing a similar testimony alongside those he once vehemently railed against? Interestingly, we are told that when Paul and Silas are thrown into prison, fastened in stocks, they start praying and singing hymns of praise to God around midnight. WHAT? Not only that—the other prisoners were listening to them!
Can you imagine being one of them?
Furthermore, can you imagine being their God?
It's no wonder He caused "a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were unfastened." Well, of course, He did! Their faith must have joyfully marveled Him, much like the centurion's faith marveled Him back in Capernaum while He ministered (Matt. 8).
I wonder whose legitimate love for Christ has transformed your heart at one time or another.
Has there been someone?
I've got a whole handful.
Even more, can you recall a time when you didn't deserve the love you received but Christ (in the other person) compelled them to love you regardless? I sure can. And I'm forever grateful, and I'll not forget it!
Dialing back to Saul, who miraculously became Paul, I bet he, too, never forgot the sound of legitimate love coming from the lips of his captive, Stephen. Breathing love when hate is seemingly justified is miraculously undoing. Or, at least it should be. It's not the world's way. It's the beautiful Way. The Way of wound-washers instead of wound-inflicters.
Maybe that's why this story did me in again?
It's not the way of my flesh but the Way of the Lord.
It's a life I want not only to believe in but to live.