By Alex Florez
When I was a little boy, I remember waking in the middle of the night to the sound of my mom crying. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on in the other room, but I knew something just wasn’t right. I sensed—albeit inarticulately—that my mother was experiencing injustice, but in my powerlessness I became hopeless, voiceless, and silenced by despair.
As a teenager, I was betrayed by a close friend. At first I dealt with that personal injustice the only way I knew how: by pretending nothing had happened. But, a few months later, an opportunity to exact revenge presented itself. I chose to fight fire with fire: “You hurt me, I hurt you,” became my operating philosophy.
Both of these examples come from the time before I knew Jesus. But even now, as a forty-year-old Bible teacher and worship leader, my response to injustice is at best moderately tainted by sin. When I am wronged, there’s a voice in my head that demands reprisal. Even the most innocuous, unintended offense against my sense of right and wrong makes me want to see wrongdoers summarily punished.
I confess these things in order to share the deep conviction I feel when I study Acts 16. Because the act of spiritual warfare they engaged in struck at the pocket books of the local Philippians, they were apprehended, severely beaten, and imprisoned. We could argue with confidence that they were treated unjustly.
I wonder how I would react if I were in Paul’s shoes. Given my history, odds are that I would not handle it well. I might become sullen and forlorn, or I may go quietly into custody, all the while silently plotting revenge. Another possibility is that I would fight like a caged animal in an attempt to draw blood for the wrongs leveled against me.
But rather than living in hopeless shame about what my gut would seem inclined to do, I turn instead to God’s Word for a better model.
I find comfort and hope when I look at Paul’s response to the injustice described in this passage: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Their response to injustice was not silence and despair, not furtive revenge-seeking, not blood-thirsty rage. They chose to pray and sing praise to God.
We’ll never know the words they prayed or what melodies filled the jail that night, but we can learn an invaluable lesson: when we witness injustice, when bad things happen to innocent people, when the order of the universe as God would have it seems turned upside down, our response should be prayer and praise. Having centered our spirits and our minds on Jesus we can begin to see the world through His eyes. Only then can we know the best path forward.