In Christianity Today, psychiatrist Robert Coles told an amazing story of a girl who had learned to pray for those who were hostile to her. Coles was in new Orleans in 1960 when a federal judge ruled that the city schools must be integrated. A 6-year-old girl, Ruby Bridges, was the only black child to attend the William T. Frantz School. Every day for weeks as she entered and left the building, a mob would be standing outside to scream at her and threaten her. They shook their fists, shouted obscenities, and threatened to kill her. One day her teacher saw her lips moving as she walked through the crowd, flanked by burly federal marshals. When the teacher told Coles about it, he asked Ruby if she was talking to the people. “I wasnt talking to them,” she replied. “I was just saying a prayer for them”
Coles asked her, “Why do you do that?”
“Because they need praying for,” came her reply.
Local officials in southern Ethiopia illegally confiscated money, lumber, and corrugated metal roofing that a congregation had collected for a new church building. But the elders decided to rely on prayer and not go to court, according to SIM International. Shortly afterwards, an epidemic of dysentery struck the area. The officials, concluding they were the objects of divine retribution, met with the elders, asked forgiveness, returned all confiscated property, and requested the church to pray that God would end the epidemic. Prayer for local leaders has now become a weekly event for the congregation.
In our relationships with others, often what passes for love is little more than a neat business transaction. People are kind to us, so we repay them with equal consideration. When they threat us unjustly, our negative response is really what they asked for. Everything is so balanced, so fair, so logical with this eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth kind of justice. But Christian love never settles for only whats reasonable. It insists on giving mercy as well as justice. It breaks the chain of logical reactions.
General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate Army who had made some derogatory remarks about him. Lee rated him as being very satisfactory. The person who asked the question seemed perplexed. “General,” he said, “I guess you dont know what hes been saying about you.” “I know,” answered Lee. “But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me!”
General Robert E. Lee was riding through a battlefield when a wounded Union soldier, lying nearby, began to curse and revile the Confederate leader. Very deliberately, Lee dismounted, walked toward the stranger, and knelt beside him. The man ceased his torrent of abuse, and Lee said, “Son, I am very sorry you are hurt. I pray that you will recover soon.”
In the fall of 1987 an Iraqi fighter jet attacked the USS Stark and killed 37 American sailors. The event received worldwide news coverage, but going almost unnoticed was the response of the widow of one of the slain men. She sent a letter to the Iraqi pilot, forgiving him for his act. She also included an Arabic New Testament with the words, “Father, forgive them” underlined.
Mary Marty retells a parable from the Eye Of The Needle newsletter:
“A holy man was engaged in his morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed that the river was rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck back at him.
“An observer came along and said to the holy man, Dont you know thats a scorpion, and its in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?
“To which the holy man replied, That may well be, but it is my nature to save, and must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?”