In his book Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, the late Henri Nouwen writes this:
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
We have all been blessed by individuals who have inspired us by their innate kindness, who have helped us change direction by the integrity of their own journey, who have inspired us by their commitment to a cause or purpose. They inspire us not with big displays of moral courage but by basic decency, not by great acts of sacrifice but by simple generosity, not by taking on the world but by treating everyone with respect and courtesy.
Today’s reading is an example of that kind of generosity. When an earthquake strikes and creates an escape route for Paul and Silas, they refuse to leave the jail cell because their escape would cost the jailer his life.
It is that example of selfless generosity that leads the jailer to ask about this Jesus, who inspires such kindness.
Paul’s message is this: with God there is freedom, even in a prison, and there is light even in the darkest moments. Paul was quite willing to open the door to salvation to the jailer even though the jailer had shut the door to prison, on Paul.
Unless a person’s discipleship makes him kind, it is not real. Our faith is made real by the deeds that we do.