The Gospel’s Response to Conflict


go to jailPaul indicates from his words in the second chapter of first Thessalonians that motives are strategic. Humanity has the possibility to be motivated for self while disciples of Christ may be and should be motivated by the gospel. Paul takes a moment to recount how he arrived, along with others, in Thessalonica. Paul and Silas had been tossed out of Phillipi, a prominent influential Macedonian city, after spending a few nights in jail illegally. Paul & Co. were disturbed at their mistreatment by the authorities in Phillipi. The city leadership put the beat down on Paul and his companions eventually tossing them in jail without being condemned. What the leadership didn’t realize at the time was Paul & Co. were Roman citizens; big problem.

Although the origin of law ultimately is God, law is established by a culture to uphold things they deem important. Law is developed by humanity and is expected to be honored by the citizens under it regardless of rank. Paul has a legitimate reason for being disturbed by the Phillipians unlawful actions, even though they are governmental leadership. Paul took a verbal swing at the authorities in Acts 16 as well as recording a few thoughts in this letter to the Thessalonians. A government/leadership role doesn’t allow you to trump the laws established by the culture, which they were elected/hired/chosen to enforce. As citizens Paul indicates they have a responsibility to hold people accountable to recorded law. Instead of Paul allowing the police to set him free he insisted the magistrates come release him from  illegal imprisonment. Although Paul’s emphasis in this passage  is not on his mistreatment in Phillipi, it provided the context for why he arrived in Thessolonians. What I find so encouraging is though leadership denied Paul & Co his rights in Phillipi he moved locations slightly and immediately began declaring the good news of God. It would have been so easy for Paul to have said oops we have to go back to Jerusalem they will not let us share the good news of Jesus. We have to give up! Nope, within a days journey Paul was declaring the gospel in another city. The good news of Jesus doesn’t flinch in conflict rather it abounds.jail

I suspect Paul was using this story to relate with the Thessalonians persecution, that great things happen in response to wrongdoing. In spite of being imprisoned illegally in Phillipi,  Paul and Silas were able to see the good news of Jesus transform a jailer and his entire household as well as move to another target city like Thessalonica. Paul was confident that in spite of the Thessalonians mistreatment God was going to work marvelously.

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