If you had been thrown in prison unjustly and were granted freedom, would you accept it? When Paul and Silas had this opportunity, their first response was to turn it down. As Roman citizens who had been illegally beaten and imprisoned without a fair trial, they knew their rights. After the local magistrates publicly humiliated them, now they wanted to privately dismiss them. This didn’t add up. The Apostle Paul insisted that the magistrates come and personally release them; otherwise, they would not accept freedom.
Was Paul being a little hard-nosed? Could he have been making a big deal out of something which really didn’t matter? Was he trying to avenge the magistrates for their mistreatment? No. Paul understood the fine line between justice and vindictiveness — and he understood the local laws. It’s one thing to insist upon being treated fairly, and it is another thing to repay those who mistreat us. Paul wanted fair treatment, but he pursued this end while maintaining a good testimony. He had planted a church in Philippi, and by his actions he ensured the church would not face resistance from the local authorities.
Believers in Jesus Christ have a right to be treated fairly like everyone else. We are not the mild-mannered doormats of the world. When we know our rights and exercise them with wisdom, we may advance the gospel and exalt our Savior. Wisdom restrains us from going a step further and avenging ourselves when we are unjustly treated. It is based upon an awareness that God will do better than any court in exacting justice.
Do you know your legal rights, Christian? If not, then you will be unable to defend them. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the laws and ordinances in your area. If you are an American, you have religious freedom and the freedom to share your faith — how are you using it? You have the right to remain vocal. No one can silence your witness for Christ when you are aware of this fact.
Click here to learn more about your rights as a Christian in the United States.
Devotional by Pastor Jim Scudder, Jr.