“As in the book of Daniel when the three young men who were put in the furnace did not smell like fire upon being delivered from it, so the Christians who have been in Communist prisons don’t smell like bitterness against the communists.
A flower, if you bruise it under your feet, rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise Christians, tortured by Communists, rewarded their jailors by love. We brought many of our jailors to Christ. And we are dominated by one desire: to give Communists who have made us suffer the best we have, the salvation that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.”
–Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs
from Tortured for Christ
I take three things away from this passage. The first is for me right now. The second is for me and for others; an analogy to be shared. The third I have known all along, and yet fail to practice with consistency and integrity.
1) Do not become what you are immersed in. I can not be tainted or covered by something I am even intensely affected by. I must wear the coat of Christ love to repel such things, so that they do not become stuck to me. I must fan into flame the fire of Christ inside, that I may stay the same. Do not become corrupted. Be set apart. be holy.
2) When we are crushed, what does it reveal inside of us? Is it anger? is it bitterness? Is it love? Is it grace? With what do we color the foot that stomps on us? Am I the flower that perfumes the foot that stomps me? Or am I the bitter root that leaves the stink of anger and resentment?
3) Do I respond in love to the people who hurt me? Even worse, the people who intentionally hurt me? We excuse ourselves when we offend someone by saying “it was not my intent,” but this is wrong on two levels.
Firstly, intentional or not, we must own our wrongs and the offenses we give. We must make reconciliation and if applicable, recompense. A man who runs over his neighbor’s dog does not excuse himself by telling the boy it was unintentional. Is that much better than if it were? What consolation does this offer the boy who has lost a cherished pet and friend? The man must acknowledge the wrong he had committed and the grief he has caused.
Secondly, the person affected by a wrong must not be hung up on whether something is forgivable based on intent. Ultimately, we are called to forgive. To hold on to anger and unforgiveness hurts everyone: Christ, the offender, and the offended. I once heard that unforgiveness is like swallowing poison and waiting for the offender to die. Unforgiveness may affect the offender, but it will never harm him as much as the one who withholds forgiveness.
All of this is an aside. All offenders, intentional or not, are our enemies at the moment the offense is given. How we respond to our momentary enemy reveals our heart. Do we love this enemy? Do we see him as Christ sees him? Do we see in him the imago dei (image of God)? Do we see Christ in him, whom Christ himself suggested we should provide a drink of water? Or do we see him as an enemy. An offender. An invader of our boundaries and a destroyer of our peace? Is he an adversary whom we must steel ourselves against? Do we raise up the walls of defense? Or worse yet, are the words of the counter-assault already on our lips before we know what we are saying?
How do we react to our enemy-in-the-moment? Do we love him or hate him? Do we give him the best we have?