Day 25 – Devotional & Discussion April 2, 2014

Acts 12:1-17

In this passage, God breaks Peter out of the jail of Herod Agrippa I, ensuring that Peter will not be killed as James, the brother of John, had been killed.  Peter ends up being a fugitive from Herod’s justice. Why do you think this story of a prison break was included in the history of the early church?  Is it just a story about Peter’s miraculous release from prison?  What else does it teach us about God?  About injustice?  About prayer for the prisoner? 

5 comments

  1. I think it’s a reminder that not everyone in prison is there because they’re guilty. Even writing those words is hard because I think we, as a people, want justice and want to believe that we have a justice system that works because if it doesn’t work, then what? But I increasingly believe that our justice system does not always work. I think about Christians who have gone to jail for protesting something that is unjust or immoral and how it might be easy to say “don’t ever break the law” but there are people like Peter today who are jailed for breaking the laws of their country because they are being faithful to God’s word. There are innocent people in jail because the justice system failed them. I think of this guy Ryan Ferguson that my aunt and cousin learned about. They saw his story on one of those newsmagazine shows and decided to start campaigning for his release and publicizing his story on social media. He eventually has been cleared but I think he spent 10 years in prison. Why are we so skeptical of people who have been convicted but maintain their innocence? It’s a question I ask myself. We have a situation in our family, too, where someone pled guilty to a charge instead of fighting for their innocence because the cards were so stacked against them that they probably would have gone to prison. Not everyone who pleads guilty is guilty. I want to believe that the majority of the time the justice system works, but I just don’t know.

  2. Along the lines of what Lisa said, I also think that injustice begins by trying to appease a certain constituency. For Herod Agrippa, it seemed like the major criteria for arresting Peter was that it made Peter’s enemies happy! I shudder to think how often this has happened over the course of U.S. history. But what about the present day? How many times are people groups targeted for special scrutiny after a crime has been committed simply on the pretense of having an “ongoing investigation” or otherwise pushing the illusion of progress toward “justice;” i.e., to appease a group (that, if I’m honest, I too often find myself a part of) who are uncomfortable when their ideas of what – security? comfort? – are challenged. This passage seems to carry the idea that God’s people should have a kind of Divine discontent on behalf of those wrongly accused. I’m sure there were those in the church that prayed so earnestly because it was Peter in prison, but I wonder how many of them simply felt the weight of the injustice that Herod was carrying out. This lesson is challenging and personally convicting, because we seem to have a cultural idea of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to those incarcerated. This passage, among others, seems to teach that such a way of thinking is not an option for those who want to have the heart of Christ for people.

    1. I find it interesting that Herod imprisoned Peter after his approval rating went up when he got tough on crime (executing James). There is a political motive behind the action. Today, politicians know that tough rhetoric is necessary for electability. I believe God’s act to break Peter out of jail is a statement to everyone that justice trumps popularity politics. Go God! God’s people take note at election time.

  3. This is where the restorative justice that Bruce has been talking about seems very attractive to me. I hesitate to write anything because when I put it out there, I feel very hypocritical about then doing nothing to follow through. If I have strong feelings about the issue, to the point where I would write about them, and then I do nothing about them, how strong are my feelings, really? I’m just speaking to myself here. For instance, it seems to me that prison reform is a massive, massive issue. Where do you begin? Is there some small way that we the common person could something meaningful. To think that there are thousands of wrongfully incarcerated people is gut-wrenching, and yet I have a sense of despair because I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know that I have time or inclination to do anything. But I do feel convicted by this compact. Convicted enough though?

    1. Joel, do not lose hope. There are many small things we can do. We can tell our representatives to pass the “second chance reauthorization act”. We can tell our representatives to eliminate mandatory sentences. We can support organizations that are trying to exonerate the wrongly convicted. I think it is interesting that releasing the convicts starts with God convicting us!

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