ODJ: Upending

June 23, 2017 

READ: Acts 16:16-34 

Paul shouted to [the jailer], “Stop! Don’t kill yourself. We are all here!” (v.28).

A garden party was underway when a man carrying a gun approached and demanded money from the partygoers. The partiers would have handed their money to the bandit, but no one had any cash! So they offered what they did have—a drink. Surprisingly, the crook accepted and joined their party. An unexpected response changed everything.

According to psychologists, “responding in an unexpected way to prompt a positive response” is called noncomplementarity. In the vernacular, it’s called upending. As trendy as it may seem, the idea is centuries old. Jesus said, “Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those you hurt you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Paul and Silas modelled upending when they didn’t run away from a jail where they’d been locked up. God used a late-night earthquake to unfasten their chains and open the prison doors. Shaken awake, the jailer assumed his prisoners had escaped. He drew his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28).

Although the jailer had been the one to restrain them in stocks and keep them confined, they prevented him from hurting himself. Perhaps because of their kindness, he fell down before them pleading, “What must I do to be saved?” (v.30). That day the prison guard and his whole household trusted Jesus for salvation.

As the Holy Spirit gives us the power to go against our natural instincts for self-protection and revenge, it will cause people to wonder why. Kindness towards offenders reveals the reality of Jesus and His grace at work within us. Choosing a Spirit-led response in difficult situations honours Him—the greatest ‘upender’ of all time (Luke 23:33-34).

—Jennifer Schuldt

365-day plan: Luke 4:16-30

Read 2 Corinthians 4:6 to see how God has upended the destiny of every believer in Jesus. 
What’s the relationship between upending and grace? Think about the week ahead. What could you do to upend a difficult situation?