A brother in the Lord has recently been experiencing tremendous trials, especially from family members. His entire world is being shaken to the core with experiences I would wish on no one. He and his wife are struggling with the pain of hateful actions and hurtful words from “loved ones”.
My wife and I pray for them, and often speak of their trials. We are at a loss of what we can do to fix the conditions they are in the middle of, and other than prayer, seek to listen to their concerns, helping them by giving them a sounding board.
In a recent reading, wifey and I came across 1 Peter 3:9.
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
Challenging words to read, but to apply in my friends situation is beyond my imagination. To bless those who hate me, revile against me and do evil towards me is otherworldly.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. – Luke 6:27-28 ESV
Personally, I have been challenged in areas of forgiveness in my faith, and have found release as I release others from my bitterness and anger toward them. But I must confess, it is a struggle. To forgive, to bless those who revile against me, is the character of our Lord and a fruit of His Spirit.
In the past week or so since this concept in the Word began to have a greater influence in my thinking, and I have been reminded of the story of Dirk Willems, an Anabaptist who lived in Holland during the 1500’s. The following story is repeated throughout the internet, but I am referencing a copy of the story from “Christianity.com” for your reading convenience
One of the Anabaptists who died in flames was Dirk Willem. His story is particularly touching, because he forfeited a real chance to escape when he turned back to help one of his pursuers. Dirk was captured and imprisoned in his home town of Asperen in the Netherlands. Knowing that his fate would be death if he remained in prison, Dirk made a rope of strips of cloth and slid down it over the prison wall. A guard chased him. Frost had covered a nearby pond with a thin layer of ice. Dirk risked a dash across it. He made it to safety, but the ice broke under his pursuer who cried for help. Dirk believed the Scripture that a man should help his enemies. He immediately turned back and pulled the floundering man from the frigid water. In gratitude for his life, the man would have let Dirk escape, but a Burgomaster (chief magistrate) standing on the shore sternly ordered him to arrest Dirk and bring him back, reminding him of the oath he had sworn as an officer of the peace. Back to prison went Dirk. He was condemned to death for being re-baptized, allowing secret church services in his home and letting others be baptized there.... Dirk was burned to death on this day, May 16, 1569.
My friends, much of my Christianity is merely theoretical in nature, and when I am challenged in my faith, find it easy to argue against the truth. It seems Dirk Willems blessed his enemy, and was rewarded with a torturous death. It may be easy to say I would do the same, that I would love my enemy, but the power of my reasoning spirit sometimes dominates my thinking.
- Was Dirk a family man?
- How could he abandon his wife and family by returning to his captor? Was he not tasked with the command to love his wife as the Lord loved the church. Is this return to the captor elevating love of enemy above love of wife? Is the example that Dirk provided of greater worth to his family than self preservation? This is a very difficult discussion for me, as I would naturally run, not looking back, not concerned about the welfare of those who would do me and my family harm.
- Was the escape from prison and apparent success of his avoiding recapture the will of God?
- It seems obvious that God had provided Dirk’s escape, much like many believers have escaped from the clutches of the enemy. Peter was delivered from prison, with his guards eventually put to death. Paul escaped using a basket out of a window.
- Could Dirk have continued with his escape, considering the pursuer as receiving his just recompense for his evil life? I could easily justify this type of thinking, especially after studying through Psalm 35, specifically Psalms for Psome – Ps 35 – B. And yet in the background, I hear the verses of loving our enemy, of blessing those who revile against us.
I am in no way taking away from Dirk Willems and his tremendous exercise of forgiveness and blessing to his enemy. This is definitely not my intent in this post. I am simply admitting that at this time in my Christian walk, I am confessing my lack of understanding (willingness?) on how to bless those who revile me.
Dirk’s story is an ultimate example of a man obeying the Lord’s command to love his enemy.
Surely, our daily lives have opportunities to mimic the Lord’s example of loving our enemies. Think of a recent time when someone may have said something against you, or insulted you or gossiped about you. How have you responded? Have you returned a blessing to those who curse you? Or like I, justified my reactions, ignoring the leading of the Spirit of God.
May God give us wisdom and power in loving our enemies.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.