In this series, Susie Hawkins walks us through a gallery of portraits of women in early church history who impacted their world for Christ and exhibited godly character, examples for us to follow today. As you walk through this study, you will see Perpetua (early Church martyr), Monica (the mother of St. Augustine), Catherine of Sienna (of the medieval Church), Catherine Booth (founder of Salvation Army), Katie Luther (wife of Martin Luther), Susannah Wesley (mother of John and Charles Wesley), and Corrie Ten Boom (survivor of World War II concentration camp).
In 202 a.d., Perpetua, a 19-year-old nursing mother, was brutally killed before onlookers in a Roman coliseum for openly practicing Christianity. Her father begged her to renounce her faith and spare her life, but she refused. The account of her martyrdom spread through the Roman Empire and fueled the spread of the early church.
This article is an edited transcript of Susie Hawkins’ audio message on Passionate Faith. Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
We are continuing in our series which we started last week called, “Passionate Faith on Display.” If you remember last week we talked a little bit about the heritage that we have in Christian women who have gone before us in history. Remember we said that we often do not know a lot about these women because they did not have time to journal. Not to mention, many did not know how to read and write—which makes a difference. Men who recorded history at that time did not see any particular need for recording about things that women did or thought or felt. So, we do not have a great deal of information by these women, especially the further back we go in history. What we do know I claim is enough. It is enough to help us give some perspective. These women served as mentors, as models. Sometimes you have a mentor who is a personal mentor, but I think also you can have mentors who have already gone before you. They lived many, many years ago and who still mentor you through their writings, through their actions, through what they did. They serve as examples and models for us.
I want to talk about one of these women today. Her name is Monica. She was the mother of Augustine. I found out as I was researching her that Santa Monica, California, is named for Monica. So, next time you go to California and you are in Santa Monica…what is that song, “I Just Want to Have Fun When the Sun Comes Out on the Santa Monica Boulevard”? Well, think about St. Monica. Think about the mother of Augustine because she had an unbelievable effect on one of the greatest men who ever lived.
The thing that we are learning from Monica today is an example of a praying mother. I do not know many things that unite women as motherhood does. Even women who do not have children relate to the nurturing instinct, do they not? They need to nurture. They recognize the power of that maternal love. Everybody who has that instinct or has that feeling certainly knows what I am talking about when I talk about the angst of mothers. When my daughters were both pregnant with their first children, I told them individually (not together as I wanted to break it to them gently) that I will tell you the truth: I might as well tell you now your life is ruined! You will never have another carefree moment ever, ever, EVER. Yes, I told them that a little bluntly, a little too soon. I might have broken that to them a little gentler which might have been better. They are experiencing what I talked about. Oftentimes a mother is only as happy as her least happy child. Now, is that true or what? Well, that is true of Monica. She had two other children who were committed Christians and did great, but could she relax and enjoy them? No. She totally obsessed with the one son. This is why I love her.
But, you know, maternal love is so intense that even God used it as a metaphor for His love. I think it is the most powerful love that humans can observe or experience, the maternal love. Remember in Isaiah 49, He was talking to His people and He was saying how much He loved His people. He says, “Could a mother forget her nursing child.” Of course, that is a rhetorical question with the obvious answer being, of course, not. He said, “Neither could I forget you.” I always think back on that scripture as a testimony of the power of maternal love. How many mothers have prayed for their children? How many mothers in this room are praying especially for adult children? It is one thing to pray for your younger children who are home. You still have some degree of control, or you think you do anyway! You can have boundaries of allowing them to do this or that and activities and all that. Monica experienced, I think, one of the most difficult tests of all. That is praying for an adult child who was on his own, making his own decisions and going the wrong way. Well, let us talk about this a minute and see why she is so important. I am sure there have been thousands and thousands of mothers like her whose children have finally come to Christ. We have her as our example in history.
Let me say before I forget that Ruth Bell Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, wrote a book about this, “The Prodigal and Those Who Love Them.” Their son, Franklin Graham, was a prodigal. He was in rebellion for quite a few years against the Lord. Of course, he returned. I always recommend that book to anybody who is struggling in this department.
Why is it so important that she was the mother of Augustine, Augustine of Hippo? Hippo was a city in North Africa. This is around the fourth century. North Africa was a center of Christianity—Carthage, North Africa, which is Tunis in Tunisia today. It was a city of learning. It was a major world city, second only to Rome. Theology, universities, the arts, and wild and crazy living were all present. Augustine grew up in this part of the world. Augustine today is considered a Church father. That simply refers to a group of theologians who lived in the first five centuries of Christianity. They wrestled with many heresies and tried to faithfully interpret Scriptures to expound the doctrines of the Church. There were the Greek fathers, the Cappadocian fathers, the Latin fathers, and the desert fathers. You would have heard of some of these, Basil, Tertullian, Origen (some of you maybe have not heard of them). Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox they are all considered to be the Church fathers. Augustine was one of the greatest of the Church fathers. He was so far ahead of his time. He is considered by secular writers as one of the pillars of Western civilization. He expounded doctrine. He could articulate philosophy and literature. He was just so unbelievably bright. But, he also combined the spiritual mindset of a believer with the education of the day. He is still considered one of the most influential and most important early theologians of the Church. You might see him often referred to if you read anything about Christianity in magazine and books. You will usually see his name credited. He probably wrote the first autobiography in the Western world. He wrote a book called, “Confessions,” which was the testimony of his salvation. He wrote another book, a classic, called, “City of God,” which defended Christianity against the paganism of the Roman Empire. The Reformers referred to him all the time. Trust me when I tell you that there is nobody bigger than Augustine.
That is why Monica is so important. Her persistence and her perseverance in not giving up praying for him “brought” one of the greatest minds into Christianity and into the Christian world. Interestingly enough, most of the things we know about her were from his pen. He wrote in his testimony about her prayers for him, testifying of Christ’s work in his life.
Let’s talk about Monica for just a minute. She is an example of service to God through motherhood. She was born not far from Carthage in a Christian home. She was raised in a Christian home. She was married to an older man who, apparently, had a violent temper. According to her children, she had a very calm and quiet manner and managed to live with him fairly peacefully. He eventually did become a believer. She attended church every day. She had three children and she poured biblical teaching into her children. When Augustine was about 16, he was going to school and was wild and crazy like 16-year-old boys are. His mother sat him down one day and had this long talk with him. She told him he did not need to be involved in immorality. Of course, he laughed it off like most 16-year-old boys would, I am sure. By his own testimony, he lived a life of wildness and lust. At 17, he left home for his “university” studies. If I were writing this chapter in Monica’s life, I would entitle it, “A Mother’s Worst Nightmare.” Your kid, who is already wild, is going off to the wildest place in the world, like Los Angeles or something. She was just so concerned about him. He joined a heretical religion called the Manichaeism, which is kind of a gnostic, new age-type thing. This is as far from Christianity as you can be. He tells about this in his “Confessions.” His soul became more and more mired in darkness and blindness to spiritual things. He said that his mother, “who wept on my behalf, wept more than most mothers weep when their children die.” He said, “For she saw that was dead by faith and spirit, which she had from Thee [he was in a prayer to God] and Thou heardest her, Lord. Thou heardest her and despised not her tears from pouring down. They watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed. You heard her.”
During this time, Monica had a dream. You will find that this is pretty common in women at this time. Men, too, who would have visions and dreams. She had a dream. She was praying and she saw herself standing on a wooden rule, which symbolized the rule of faith. A young man was coming toward her. He was all joyful and smiling. She was greeting this young man who asked why she was so sorrowful. She said she was lamenting her son’s destruction. Then, she looked up and saw his face. She thought it was Augustine. The young man said, “Where you are, there I will be also.” So, she told Augustine about this dream. He said that “just meant that you will become a Manichaean, like I am.” Is that not just like a kid to say that! She said, “No, it does not because the dream said I was standing here and you came to me. I did not go to you. So, that is not what it means.” For nine more years, he continued this lifestyle. She went a couple of times to the bishop. It is really very gratifying. There were two men, one bishop in Carthage and one later on in the line, Ambrose, who really prayed with her about her son. She asked them to pray for him. She sought out prayer partners in these men of God. This bishop in Carthage essentially said to her, “Leave him alone. Just pray to God for him and he will of himself discover his error.” She kept begging, but the bishops said “No, no, leave him alone and you just pray.”
Now, at this time he had gotten a position in Rome, an elite teaching position. Monica was just beside herself about that because she thought it was getting worse. He is running away from the only good influence he has and now he is leaving to go to Rome. God only knows what will happen in Rome. She told him that she was going to come with him. So, he told her there was a ship leaving for Rome, but he said he was not going to go to Rome. He had changed his mind about that, but he was going to go down to the ship and say goodbye to some friends of his who were leaving on that voyage. What he did not tell her is that he, himself, was also going. So he got on the ship and left. Basically, he ran away from home without his mother knowing. Of course, this distressed her greatly. However, while he was in Rome she heard news that he had renounced this cult that he had become a part of. Now, while he was not a believer yet, to Monica it was a step out of darkness—hopefully into the right way. By her testimony, she prayed and prayed scripture.
Monica was reminded of the story of Jesus and the widow of Naaman. Remember that story? Her son had died and this widow was walking out in the funeral procession and Jesus was walking into the city. He saw the funeral procession and He immediately went over to the coffin and to the mother. He said, “Young man, I say to you rise.” The boy rose from the dead. Monica used those words in prayer that, although he was dead in his spirit, this young man would rise. She prayed over and over and over again these words of scripture.
He then went to Milan where she eventually caught up with him. He began attending services at a church to hear the bishop, Ambrose, who was supposedly the greatest preacher of all time, not so much for his theology but for his rhetoric. If you remember, the Roman Empire was quite focused on having an elite skill in your oratory ability to speak. So, he began going to hear Ambrose. Ambrose became her prayer partner also for Augustine. She began meeting with him and they began praying together for Augustine. He wrote of her commitment that every child should be so blessed to have a mother who prayed so diligently for their sons. Incidentally, one thing I found out when I was doing this that she said to him on another topic the fasting rules here in Milan are different than they are in Rome so should I go by the rules of my church in Milan or do I go by my other church. Which one do I go by? He was the one who really in so many words came up with the statement, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So he essentially said, “When in Milan, do as the Milanese.” Keep that in case you ever need that on Jeopardy.
Augustine was still struggling with his flesh and was getting more and more despondent with his life and the life of direction. He had had a mistress. He had a son with this mistress, but he did not want to get married. He thought that would hurt his social standing. You may be familiar with this story. One day he was in a garden and he was praying, saying, “Lord, how long, oh God, wherever you are, how long will I live in despair and despondency?” The more educated he got, the less happy he was. The more he traveled it was like he was running away. He could not find a spot. He could not find any joy. He was so restless. So, he prayed. He was despondent about his own lack of self-discipline. He said, “Lord, how long will I have to continue in this unclean life? Will I just live this way forever?” He heard the voice of a child in the garden over the fence in a sing-song voice saying, “Take up and read. Take up and read.” He immediately went into the house, picked up a Bible, opened it up and it fell open to Romans 13:13, “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in strife and envy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provisions for the flesh.” He said he read no further until all of the doubt vanished away. Augustine, reading the scriptures, hearing that child’s voice, had truth revealed to him and he became a believer in that instant.
So, of course, and this will make you happy, what do you think the first thing he did was? He ran to tell his mother. Now, oh, happy for her! On Easter in 387 AD, he and his son were baptized by Bishop Ambrose. Throughout all his writings, he is so expressive in his appreciation in love to his mother for her perseverance in prayer and bringing him to Christ. Now, eventually they decided to return to Africa. She became ill on the voyage on the way. They stopped at a city in North Africa, almost home, and she died at age 56. She said on her death bed, “There was indeed one thing for which I wish to tarry a little bit in this life and that was that I might see you a Christian before I died. My God has exceeded this abundantly.” On her death, he said in “Confessions,” that he wept for over an hour—with it on his mind that it was so little in comparison to all the tears she had wept for him.
He returned to Hippo and became a bishop. He raised his son in the faith. He began his prolific writing career. He died on his deathbed as the vandals were attacking Rome and burning Rome at the end of the Roman Empire as he knew it.
This great man came to Christ because of the prayers of his mother. So, I think this is so important because I want it to be an encouragement to any of us who pray for adult children. Even if your adult child is a believer, you know they struggle so many times, do they not? Not everybody has their act together automatically. That is an understatement to say that. Just because you turn 21…and they need prayer. As a mother, and maybe you do not have children, but as an aunt, as a good friend, it is part of our responsibility as the older generation to pray for those who are coming after us. I believe this so strongly.
Let me say a couple of things and then there is a passage of scripture that I think shows us some things about Monica. God seems to prefer answering prayer in accomplishing His will for His people. He just does. This is the mystery of prayer and free will. The sovereignty of God and free will. Would Augustine have become a believer if Monica had not prayed for him? I think somebody else would have prayed for him, but for some reason God uses the prayers of His people to accomplish His purposes. God seems to prefer to use people to accomplish His purposes. That would be those who are willing to pray. God gives people the room to say yes or no to Him. There again, this is the mystery of God’s sovereignty. I know so many people in this metroplex who have raised children according to God’s plan. They do everything they need to do to raise that child right. Yet, when that child became older, they decided they did not want to be in church, they did not want to be a believer, and they rejected that. Believe me, I almost think there are sometimes more of those people than the other ones. All I can tell you about that is that you just cannot discount human nature. Oswald Chambers said, “We all have one right and that is the right to ourselves and God gives us that.” So, sometimes people temporarily, hopefully, choose to go their own way and I think they have to learn the hard way. You hate that when it is your own child. You do not want them to do that, but some choose to do that. That should not be a reflection on you necessarily. I am not one who points a finger to bad parenting when a child does that because I have seen too many times that the child deliberately chooses to go against a parent. God gives them that freedom to do so. We will get to that in a minute before we finish.
You cannot make your child a Christian. You cannot convince anybody by logic and apologetics and arguing to make them a Christian. You cannot do it. Please, if you hear anything, hear this. A person becomes a follower, a believer in Christ, because the Spirit reveals it to them, just like Augustine in the garden. The Spirit revealed Himself. Spiritual truth is revealed to a person and they become a believer. So, in a way I love this because it takes some of the pressure off…we do not have to convince somebody. You do not have to convince your child, your daughter, your son that your way is the right way or that this is what. You do not have to convince them of that because God will reveal that to them. That is not our job. It is something that happens in the spirit.
Another thing I loved about the story of Monica is that she sought prayer support of other people, of the bishop. There is no telling how many of her other friends and church members, but she was not ashamed to go to her community to find prayer support. I cannot encourage you enough to do that if you are praying for a child, an adult child. Find somebody who will pray with you and hold your arms up and support you and encourage you like the bishop did for her. He also gave her a little more objective advice. It is very, very important.
Then, I think from this story we see something else. Monica never apologized for her faith. There is an account in Augustine’s book, “Confessions,” that they had had an argument. He said to if you would just renounce your faith and quit being so obnoxious about being a Christian, we would get along just fine. Basically what she did was kick him out of the house for a while. She said she would never do that. I will never do that. Do not be ashamed to live your faith and do not apologize for your prayers or your faith. He commented all the time on her virtuous life, her commitment to prayer, her honorable marriage with his father who was difficult to live with, how she loved him and treated him respectfully. He could not say enough about his mother’s character. So, do not be ashamed. Do not think you have to apologize for your faith or apologize for your prayers. You do not. God will use that hopefully to bring that person to Christ.
In the prodigal son, we have some similarities, do we not? You know the story about the prodigal son in Luke 15. You can read it later because we do not have time. This is about the father who had all his riches. His younger son wanted his share of the possessions and he gave it to him. He demanded it. He ran off into a very far country and spent it all. He ended up feeding pigs and finally the scripture says he came to himself. He said he was going home because even at my father’s house, even if I am a servant, it is better than this. You know the story. He went home and his father was waiting for him. When he saw him coming, he jumped off the porch, ran and embraced him and, of course, they had a huge celebration. There are a couple of things about that story that should encourage us if we are praying for adult children. First of all, the prodigal son, like Augustine, was far, far away in a very far country. Sometimes that seems discouraging, does it not? I can imagine how she felt when he joined a cult who did not even believe there was a supreme being. They did not even believe there was a god. He was in a far country, just like the prodigal son was. He was not just in another denomination. He just was not wrong of some things of doctrine. He was in a far country, far, far away from God. Yet, he came home.
The second thing of interest is that as he was in that far country the scripture says that no one gave him anything. You know how easy it is for parents, especially mothers, to want to rescue children, adult children, is it not? It is so in us to rescue them, but the father, for whatever reason, did not rescue him. He gave him nothing. He let him live in his space. He did not try to make him feel better or comfort him. Nobody gave him anything. It reminded me of the bishop in Carthage who said to leave him alone. Then, he came to himself. He came to the realization of what he was missing and what he could have on his own. Just like Augustine did in the garden in total despair when the Holy Spirit really got ahold of him.
Now, Monica lived to see her son converted. I am so grateful she did. I know if she had died and was in heaven, she would still know it. I believe that. But not everybody gets to do that. I am sure there are elderly people who died before they get to see their prayers answered when it comes to their children or their grandchildren. You know what, it is almost like prayers go into heaven’s bank. They are a deposit. That may not always be cashed during our lifetime, but I believe it can be during each lifetime.
I just read recently the story of Dr. Dobson whose great-grandfather prayed before Dr. Dobson was even born that every person in the next four generations of his family would serve Christ in ministry. He tells the story of how the daughters married ministers and how the sons did all through the generations. His father was in ministry and prayed that he would have a son who would go into ministry. Dr. Dobson did not go into preaching ministry, but he went into family ministry and has had such an impact on the lives of so many Christians. He makes this point. This man prayed for me before I was ever born, before I ever was, before I was ever born he prayed. That is how prayer works in the kingdom of God. Although much later on, Monica got to see her son converted.
So, I pray that we, too, would have that privilege for those of you who are praying that prayer. Ephesians 1:17 is a wonderful prayer to pray if you are praying scripture, “May the Father of glory give (we will say Augustine) the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. That the eyes of his understanding may be enlightened that you might know the hope of His calling.” This is something I pray for my adult children that the eyes of their understanding would be open and that they would be enlightened. I was reading some things about this, praying for adult children, and I came across a prayer which will be put on the screen. I tweaked it a little bit because I did not like part of it so I changed some of it. I think this prayer releases us from guilt and bondage of “what we should have done” or “it is our fault that they are not living according to God’s ways.” It releases us from guilt and puts it all back on God, trusting Him with our future. It is this: “God, let me live my life in the joys that You have offered on this earth. Let me live to the fullest of my potential and, Lord, may I always be faithful to pray for my child that they learn to live their lives in Your joy also. I cannot save them from themselves, but I can ask that You give them revelation that they might come to themselves and find salvation and restoration in You.” It is not our job. All we can do is bring them before God, bring them before the throne and He takes it from there.
This article is an edited transcript of Susie Hawkins’ audio message on Passionate Faith. Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Deborah Jones.
Maybe you saw the news, about a young woman named Cyd who works with a humanitarian group in Afghanistan. She was just taken hostage a couple of weeks ago in Afghanistan. I saw it in the Sunday paper. She is a Christian. She works with a humanitarian group there in Afghanistan. I have been following that story. There was an interesting news release which said that last week, in the city where she was, 500 women fully clothed in their burkas protested her kidnapping with signs and with songs! That is pretty amazing in Afghanistan. For women to take to the street and protest the kidnapping of this woman— who they considered to be someone there just to help them in working with the people of Afghanistan—is quite extraordinary. So if you would, pray for her. Her name is Cyd, and I am sure if you go to, ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ website (I am not saying she is a martyr, and I hope she’s not going to be one!) but they may have information on her if you want to keep up and pray for her.
This brings us to our topic today, as we talk about, “Passionate Faith on Display.” Let me remind you where we were. We are in our minds, visiting an art gallery, and the visiting exhibit is called, “Passionate Faith on Display”, and we are walking through the hallway of this art gallery. We are looking at portraits of significant women, whose lives, ministries, and contributions to the church legacy and to Christian history, have made a difference and a significant impact in our own story, in who we are. There are so many of these women to choose from. We have such a heritage. I grieve over the fact that I think in many free churches or traditional Bible churches we do not emphasize these people. We do not know who they are, and so we do not know anything about them. But, they are our spiritual mentors from afar. They teach us something. They show us the way. They have a testimony, a witness to give to us, and show us something through their lives.
So we are looking at these women, what they did, what was so important, and what was their significant contribution. Then we are looking at Christ, what he did, and seeing what the New Testament tells us that we need to likewise do as we follow those examples. So today I’m talking about two women, and I’m going to have to talk really fast, because I could not decide between the two. So, you know how it is, you cannot really decide between two dresses at Dillard’s, so what do you do? You buy both! So that is what I’m doing. I know you understand that reasoning.
So, I’m doing the Catherine’s today. Two women that lived about 500 years apart, but who were so similar in their lives and their calling. The first one is Catherine of Sienna, the second one Catherine Booth. Now the Catherine’s were portraits in compassion. They were noted for their compassionate work among the poor, the lowly, the oppressed, and the uneducated. They were taking their time, their ministries, risking their health—as we will see— to minister to the helpless, to those who could give nothing back to them. I think it’s interesting that when we look at the lives of these women, we see that people were so drawn to them. And I was reading over their stories, it reminded me of why people were so drawn to Jesus. Why? Because of his compassion, and his empathy, and he would stop and talk to the lowest of persons. The most insignificant person that had no ranking in that culture of that day, he would stop and talk to and listen. He was known for his compassion. So, I want us to think today about compassion.
Now usually when we think about compassion, we think of when they would have all those commercials on television about feed the children. They would show the babies with the big stomachs and the flies on their faces. You remember that. It’s just so awful to look at, and you want to look away, because it just so awful. It would bring feelings of pity and sorrow, and then they would have the number for you to call. But, compassion is more than just empathy. The best definition that I read says that it is more than feeling sorrow or pity for someone, it is empathy in action. It is feelings of sorrow and grief, and pity, but then that results in action. It is not just saying “that is so awful,” and turning around and walking off. When you think about Jesus, isn’t that what He did every time? I challenge you, if do not believe me, to look in your concordance under compassion. I found 5 or 6 instances where Jesus, the scripture says, was moved with compassion. He felt compassion. He saw them and he felt compassion. And every time he felt compassion, something happened. He did something. He preached a message to them. He performed a miracle. He stopped and ministered to them in some way. His feelings of compassion did just not end there with “oh, that’s so sad.” His feelings of compassion ended with some kind of action. That is what we see in the Catherine’s today, and I think that is our challenge.
Now compassion doesn’t come easily to everyone. You know, not everyone has just the “bleeding heart,” as we say. I have two daughters, and the older one is very black and white, get to the point, bossy, you know, just not emotional. The second one is just big hearted, soft hearted, you know, just feel sorry for everybody and everything. Well I remember one day, years ago, sitting at the table. I was telling them a story of a friend of mine whose daughter had gotten into bad, bad trouble with drugs and the wrong crowd. It was really a heart breaking story. I was sitting there telling this story. My younger daughter, she had these big brown eyes, and she had these tears just spilling out. She said, “what are we going to do? What are we going to do? How can we help her?” I look over at my other daughter, who was sitting stolidly. She said. “it is her own fault. She has no one to blame but herself. I do not know why I have to do something.” So we had a little lecture on compassion. So, I do recognize that compassion doesn’t come easily to everybody. Yet I want to tell you that it is a sign of the Christ-life. So if you do not naturally have it you need to cultivate it. You need to work on that in your life, because it is characteristic that Christ had. These women had it, and it is part of seeing people as God sees people. I think that is a good definition of compassion also: seeing others as God see them. Not with presuppositions, or prejudices, or biases, or “it is their own fault”— but seeing them for their own condition.
Now, these two women were known for their work among the poor. Catherine of Sienna was born in Tuscany Italy in 1347. She was the 24th child out of 25 children. Yes, people think about that for a while! She was born into the middle class, during a time when there was a transition from a feudal society to an “economic democracy” so to speak. It was a time of a lot of social upheaval. Let me say something about these women, and really all the women we talk about. I think when you study historical figures like this, you find some odd things that they did. You know, some things that are very much out of our tradition that we do not understand. Especially Catherine of Sienna, she had some weird stuff, she was a mystic. She was a medieval mystic. These people that had vision and raptures and going into ecstasy. They would always want to identify with the sufferings of Christ. They would focus on self denial and self deprivation to an extent you and I could not imagine. But my point is that I just want to tell you what they did. This is what their life was like. This is what they did within the context of their time. She was a real mystic. When she was age 7, she felt that she had a visitation from the Holy Spirit, and she announced her determination to have a religious life. She did not want to marry or have children. Her parents tried to persuade her differently, but she would not do it. She had this familiar image you will often see of medieval mystics: going into raptures or ecstasy during prayer and seeing visions of Christ. She would write a lot of these experiences down. She wrote a book called ‘Dialogues,’ in which she recorded a lot of her mystical visions.
Editor’s Note: It should be noted Scripture gives the standard by which to examine all things. Anything that contradicts Scripture will lead one astray from truth. This we may— and need to— be discerning about.
But the interesting thing about Catherine, is that even though she would live alone in a little house, and deprive herself of food and sleep and all of these other things, that is not all she did. She did not just devote her life to contemplation or to activity— but to both. So she would have these experiences, but they always led her to service. That is one reason I like her. She did not just stay by herself for 25 years, and not have anything to do with anybody. All of her experiences drove her to minister to the poor and the sick. She had her theology, basically, had 3 points. Her big thing was truth, virtue and love. This is what she preached and taught wherever she went, serving the poor.
She took the 3rd way. You did not really go into a convent. There were form orders. But you could preach to people and you could perform services. She directed at home, and she learned to read and write with another priest, who taught her to read and write. For four years, the first four years that she did this, she dedicated her life to serving the poor and the oppressed.
Now, four years later Europe was hit by the black death, or the bubonic plague. This you may remember from world history was one of the worst scourges of the earth. One third of the population of the world was killed, from Iceland to India. It started with a flea that was probably on the back of a rat that came into port in Italy, and it just spread like wild fire. Because you are eating lunch, I am not going to tell you all the details, but the symptoms were: headaches, aches, rapid pulse, slurring of speech, fatigue, apathy, swelling of lymph nodes, tissues would swell causing hemorrhaging, collapse of the nervous system, terrible pain, and then in the last stage your skin would blacken. That is why it was called black death. This quote was given by a historian: “People went to bed healthy and would be found dead in the morning.”
Priest and doctors who came to care for the sick would contact the plague with a single touch and die sooner than the person they had come to help! Because of that you can see why people were so hesitant to visit. Would you not be as well? Yes. They did not know what to do, because even the slightest contact was so contagious. But Catherine miraculously was able to—truly miraculously—avoid this illness. For several years she worked among the poor and the dying of the black plague. She said, “I built myself an inner cell in my soul, where I would minister from that place, and somehow God gave me the grace to not see the awful physical condition and the smell.” Somehow she was able to hold peoples’ hands while they were dying. There was one account that said, that she would just go all day long just holding peoples’ hands or heads in her hands until they died. She would then put them down, cover their face and go to the next one. Somehow she did this while eighty thousand people died in that outbreak of the plague. There were other outbreaks. She lost her sister, brother, and eight nieces and nephews. She would go without food, drink, and sleep for days to minister in the smallest way to the sick and dying. She would be praying over them and holding their hands until they died.
But interestingly enough her concern for the physical and emotional well-being of people was not just limited to the physical but of course to the spiritual. She understood, that while it was so important to alleviate suffering here in the world, what was more important was a person’s spiritual destiny. That was more important than even their physical needs. So her love for others, her compassion for their poverty of spirit, for their sick and poverty stricken lives, drove her to serve in a way of preaching. She would go on crusades, and that’s what they called them. Just remember in the terminology of the day, the middle ages, crusades were very accepted. That was a very accepted term to go and “preach a crusade.” She was given permission by the priest in her local area to go. She went on a crusade to Pisa Italy. She would go to places and crowds would gather because they had heard of her. She would talk about Christ and presented the plan of salvation. She was unafraid of that bold witness.
Not only that, but she was also known for her reforms, pushing for reforms in the church. Now this was just prior to the reformation. There had been a big schism in the Catholic church where there were actually two capitols, two Vatican’s, if you want to call it that. The French government got involved—there was no separation of state and church, remember. So they had moved “Rome,” or the head of the Catholic church to France. So there was about 40 years where you had these two sides warring. You had Rome and France arguing. This is Catholic history, and I do not understand it.... Except that she just went off on this, and she would write these letters. You should read these letters. She is saying, these people are poor and dying yet you are taxing them to death! You are taking money for indulgences, and they do not have money to feed their children. She just was relentless. These men would write her letters back and say, basically, “shut up, you are a woman, go away”, and she would not do it. She just kept on, and there are records of her. You can read her letters and her writings challenging the Pope, saying “What are you doing up there in France? Get back down here! We got things to do besides your petty little power plays and your arguments.” She criticized the churches expenditures for luxuries that were paid by the taxation of the poor. She condemned the vices of all the immorality that was going on. She prayed and worked for justice. She was criticized for meddling in church affairs, and she was criticized for promoting missions. She told them you need to get home and instead of having your arguments about that, we need to start a work over in this area of the city where no one is ministering to the poor. We need to do this. She was a ball of fire. She was known as a reformer as well as a women. Why could she say all that, and why did people listen to her? Because she had gained her credibility by ministering to the poor. She was not too important to minister in this way. I love that. I love, love, love that. Her service was the platform for her ministry for spiritual needs. It was the platform for ministering to the spiritual needs of people around her.
I want to read you one of her prayers that she prayed in her journal. It is just one of her daily prayers of her quiet time. And tell me if you could not pray this yourself today.
“Oh Holy Spirit come into my heart, drawn by thy power to thee, true God. Grant me love with fear of thee. Guard me from evil thought. Warm me and enflame me with thy love. Holy my father and sweet my Lord. Help me now in all my labors. Christ you are loved, Christ you are loved.”
That’s Catherine of Sienna, really an amazing woman, who had compassion not only on peoples physical needs but their spiritual as well.
Now about 500 years later another Catherine came on the scene, Catherine Booth. Who is known as the mother of the Salvation Army. She was born in 1829 in England. She had Christian parents, and married William Booth who was a preacher. They established the Salvation Army. They felt the calling to the poor. He was a pastor, and they would go out to teach, preach, and pray among the poor and lowly. Then they would invite them into the church. There is this story about one day when he was preaching at the church. One of the church leaders got up to him and said, “We need to stop these undesirable from coming into our church, it is a very nice church and we just do not need those people.” William started to answer, but Catherine was on the front row of the balcony. She stood up and she held her fist up and said, “Never, never, never will we ever deny anyone access into the church of Jesus Christ because they are undesirable!” And she said to one of her friends sitting next to her, “the more I see of fashionable religion, the more I despise it.” Oh, I love that woman! She was strong. After a few years William decided he would not mess with the church. They never did come around to understanding his ministry. They wanted to start an itinerate ministry which concerned her on how they were going to live. They had eight children. Eight children who all went into the ministry.
God provided and they worked together to establish the Salvation Army. I wish you all could read these stories about Catherine Booth, and these women of the temperance movement. This is around the temperance movement time too. They would just go into these bars. And remember this was London, and there were no child labor laws. There were no Labor Unions. Women would work 12 hours a day. Children would work. Conditions were horrible. There was such a peasant poor class. Alcoholism was rampant because of the misery of their lives.
These women like Catherine Booth, her women of the Salvation Army and these other women of the Temperance movement would walk into bars with their Bibles. They would stand in front of the table, as if God had come right there, and read the scriptures to these drunk men. And, say “You bums, you’ve got a wives, you’ve got children, they’re poor, they’re hungry!” They had no fear. You want to talk about not afraid to offend. They were not afraid to offend.
William Booth came up with, as some people have called it, a social reconstruction plan for a nation. England was just burdened with alcoholism, unemployment, poverty, and families that were split and uneducated. This man was a visionary like few other men. Catherine was the intellectual one. She was trained in theology and philosophy. She gave the movement its theological and philosophical basis. They liked the army terms. Here again that is not something we would use today, but that was big in their day. The had military terms, like the “Salvation Army,” the General, and the Captain. They had crusades. They had drills. All of their organization was structured around those terms.
One of her interest was reclaiming the lives of women from lives of prostitution. Over a period of something like 10 years, they gathered over 350,000 signatures on a petition to the British Parliament to outlaw prostitution and the slave trade for these poor girls. Just like today these girls had no future. They are taken and sold into slavery. She worked tirelessly to end the white slave trade. She worked for labor laws for women. There were factories where women did the same amount of work, but were paid half the amount of men. Imagine such a thing.
One of the big things for all the poor people were match factories that would make matches. They would work with phosphorous . Apparently you’d dip the end of the match in phosphorous. Well it is very, very, very poisonous and lethal. These people that worked in these factories would contract these horrible diseases, I am telling you, it sounds worst than the black plague. I do not even want to tell you, it is so awful. The cancer, and the illness, the distortion of the neck and the face, and bones, that would happen to these people. She and William decided. We can think of something better than that! They came up with an alternative way to make matches. They started their own factory. Somehow they managed to pay the women as much as they did the men, and they did not use phosphorous. Not only that, but they advertised about how detrimental the phosphorous was to the health of the women. They put the old match factory out of business. Do you not just love it? It is so great. They had no fear and no end to the means they would go to, to alleviate the suffering of others.
Interestingly enough, that the Salvation Army was one of the few large institutions that welcomed women preachers. I have to say that, just because I think it so interesting. They would separate on Sunday morning. William Booth would go one way, she would go the other. They would gather crowds and they would preach the gospel.
When they came to America, William Booth chose seven women. He called them his splendid seven. Seven women that he thought could bring, and they did, the Salvation Army to America to get it organized. When they were getting on the ship to go over he prayed, “Lord, these ladies are going to America to preach the gospel. If they have fully given their lives to thee, be with them and bless them and grant them success. If they are not going to be faithful, just drown them.” (Laughter) I do not know how those ladies felt about that prayer! Hmm, better catch up on my quiet time. He said my best men are women. He was unafraid, he saw no difference there.
Here is the thing I loved about these women. Both of them married compassion for the poor with compassion for spiritual darkness. They did both. What a testimony. They had no fear ministering to the poor and no fear in proclaiming the gospel and the truth of the word of God. They cared for physical needs and spiritual needs.
Now what does the Bible tell us. I am sure you know, the Bible set such a precedence on this, as far as compassion. In the Old Testament, Amos was a minor prophet. He was just a farmer. He was a nobody. Yet God chose him to be a prophet at a time when Israel was at its lowest ebb. There was terrible sexual idolatry and sin. There was exploitation of the poor. There was extreme taxation. It was truly one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. Amos’ message was justice and compassion. That was his message. We do not have time to read some of the scriptures. However, on some of the things he was quite hard on. To people that would exploit the needy, he bluntly said, “You oppress the poor and you crush the needy.”
In Hebrew law, we see compassion in the law in Leviticus. The Hebrew word, “chesed” which we translate usually loving-kindness, mercy, or compassion has this idea. Translators say there is so much in that word it hard to find one English word that describes it. Mercy, loving kindness, compassion, all is tied up in that word, “chesed.” Remember in Leviticus, (I am sure you all quite caught up on your civil laws in Leviticus…). But if you remember there were always laws for the poor. When people would glean in their fields, you leave a little for the poor. When you would pick the grapes from the vineyard, you leave a little bit for the poor. You know the interesting thing I noticed in these laws was that there was simply “this is what you do to care for the poor.” There was never any statement about “did they deserve it or not?” There is never any statement on whether they deserved it or not. It is just, the poor you will always have with you, and it is our job to care for them— whether they deserve it or not.
Jesus all through the gospel was moved with compassion. He even taught the story of the Good Samaritan. Remember the rich young ruler who came to him? The man who said, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus said, let me tell you a story. Then He tells the story of the Good Samaritan. He was saying this is the neighbor: a neighbor is anyone nearby. It is someone who is right there in front of you. In contrast, they were thinking, “We are the people. So the ones I need to help are the people that look like me.”
I read an interesting story last night. I wish I had time to do it today, but it was on a contemporary telling of the good Samaritan. Basically it went like this. We all understand that story and think, “we cannot believe the Priest and the Levite went by the man who was beat up and about to die on the side of the road!” Then a Samaritan came by and took care of him. But to them it is as if I tell a story for us and I say. A man was dying on the side of the road, and a Baptist preacher and a professor from an evangelical seminary walked by him and said, “I have a meeting to go to.” Then an atheist stopped, and got out of the car and said, “:somebody’s got to do something!” Then shepherds him and puts him in his car and takes him to the local emergency room. Now would that get your attention? Yeah, that is what Jesus was saying. He was saying it is our job to care for those who are near us, our neighbor. It is this command we have. James tells us:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the father, is to visit the orphans and widows of this world in their trouble, and keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)
Remember this. He goes on to say, If a brother or sister is naked or hungry, do not just pat them on the back and say, “Well, bless you! Have a good day!” No. It is pity plus action. Give them something to eat. Give them something to wear.
Let me tell you this as we conclude. You cannot meet every physical need of people. There is no way. Of all the Christian charities there are in the world, we cannot even begin to meet all the needs. But I would challenge you to ask yourself, ask the Lord to show you if you are not involved in any kind of ministry like that. What can you do, a little, just right now. You personally.
I’ve found a great outlet for that in World Vision. I just went to an exhibit last week on AIDS, children with AIDS, whose parents have died of AIDS. Whether it is that, or whether it is a church benevolence ministry, let us find something.
I have a friend that we travel with sometime, and he would always stop and give beggars on the road some money, a dollar, no matter what. People in our group would say, “Do not give that to them. You know, they are alcoholics.” But, he would wait until everybody was not looking. After a few times, he was kind of rebuked. I would notice him lagging behind. He would hand them some money. So, I told him I will be your beggar alert. I will see the beggars, and I will alert you so you can get your money out. This last year we went to Israel, we did that. Just thinking about him, that was a good example to me. I do not know why they are poor and they are beggars. Maybe they are sick and alcoholic. I do not know, but you know that is not my job to fix them. All I know is that they are hungry and they need money, and God knows. You know what? God knows.
However, I think our challenge is also to realize. It is not just enough to minister and have pity on their poverty or their needs, but also on their spiritual needs. Sometimes compassion is not just to the poor of the world that are dying and uneducated and all of that. It might just be the person in the cubicle next to you, who needs some compassion. They need somebody to extend a little grace, a little understanding, a little kindness their way. Compassion is not just reserved for the poor and the needy. Sometimes I think we can romanticize that. There is something we can do with the people that are nearby, our neighbors.
This article is an edited transcript of Susie Hawkins’ audio message on Passionate Faith. Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
We are continuing today in our series that we are doing on “Passionate Faith on Display, Portraits of Significant Women in Church History.” For those of you who are new, we are looking at the lives of women—not biblical women, not women in the Old or New Testament, but women who lived after the New Testament times on up to our current time. I have chosen some specific women, but let me tell you, it is not easy to choose which women to talk about. We have an amazing heritage of Christian women who have paved the way for us and modeled for us what it means to walk with Christ.
The song that we using, which is my current obsession, is a song called, “Give Me One True and Holy Passion.” I love that song. It is such a great prayer to pray that in our life God would give us this passion for living for Him and walking with Him. Each one of these women that we are talking about during this series I believe will trace that passion in her life and in her time. Her times are very important—the historical context of her time, what the world was like when each one of these women lived, what the culture that she had to work within, and how she lived out her faith in that particular time.
We have talked about Perpetua who was a portrait of martyrdom, a portrait of courage. We have talked about Monica who prayed for her son, Augustine, as a portrait of a praying mother. Remember how we talked about her and how she literally chased her son across the Mediterranean and prayed him into the Kingdom of God. Then, we talked about a portrait last week of the Catherine’s—Catherine of Siena and Catherine Booth. These women were known for their great compassion. How they lived out their faith by ministering to people around them and really living out the compassion of Christ. So, today we are talking about our fourth portrait in the series.
Today, we are going to talk about one of the most interesting women. There is a lot written about her and all these women. These are very well known women in Church history. We are going to talk about Katie Luther, a portrait of service. One of the most interesting of these women is the story of Katie Luther. She was what we would call today the first modern pastor’s wife, a ministry wife, which is a term I prefer to use. She was a pioneer in ministry from her home. She did this by moving the center of Christian service, from the monastery, the convent, (or the cloister, you could call it, which would include both of them) from the cloister to the home. She was a very, very unique woman. Why is she so important? She represented the new spirit of the Reformation. We are going to talk about that a little bit today.
Now, I know that when we talk about some of these things we are going to have to do a little history lesson. Does anybody in here just love world history? Did everybody sleep through it like I did? Well, actually, I went back to school later, a lot later, in my life when I really wanted to learn. That is a good time to go to school. You actually want to learn. When you are in college, you do not want to learn. You know, you just want to get out. So, you may have been like me and slept through most of that. But, it is important to understand the times in which they lived. Katie Luther was a spunky, feisty, energetic young woman who found herself, through a strange turn in the road of her life, married to one of the most influential men in the last millennium, Martin Luther.
Through her life and through her ministry, we learn some very, very important principles of service— like learning to serve God in the place where He puts you. I like the term “life assignment.” This is one of my favorite new terms. I like that. It is very clear. Each one of us has a life assignment, a place God puts us. He puts us in a country. He puts us in a city. He puts us in a workplace. He puts us in a family. Within that place of our life, we have an assignment of living out our faith. Katie certainly did that well.
Now, if we are going to understand a little bit about her we have to go back and just remind ourselves of a few historical things, of what was happening in the world at the time she lived. This is the sixteenth century, 1517 was when “officially” the Reformation started. Now, you may remember that from New Testament times all the way up until this time in the sixteenth century the Church had preserved the classic culture of western civilization. The Church had become very wealthy. It considered itself the authority over spiritual affairs and civic affairs. Remember, up until after the Reformation, actually, there was no concept of the separation of Church and state. There were some people, you could call them streams of dissenters. From New Testament times up until Reformation time, there were always some that had that idea and had a clear idea of scriptural authority and what it meant to walk with God—truly, being a believer in the sense of biblical faith. They were minimized, we could put it that way. They were considered to be heretics. The Roman Catholic Church believed that only the Church could interpret scripture, that the Church had the right to rule ascetic life, to govern, and that all authority was with the Church.
Now, there were some people, as I said, who had made attempts at reform. John Wycliffe, for example, was a man with whom you may be familiar. In the fourteenth century he was a preacher and a priest at Oxford. He translated the Bible into English from Latin, which horrified the Church. He was a major “heretic” for that whose body was exhumed and destroyed. He had a huge influence on a few other early reformers. He ended up being a big influence on Martin Luther.
At the time this started happening, European culture was in an upheaval. It was the time of the Renaissance. You remember the Renaissance. It was a time of “new thought coming out of the Dark Ages.” People associate Italy with the birth of the Renaissance. If you have ever been to Italy, you might remember noticing how many of the arts came from Italy. I remember walking through the square in Florence, Italy, and looking at all these statues of people and noting everything beautiful from Italy. Opera, art, fashion, music, you name it—they produced such beauty. That was the birthplace of the Renaissance. It spread like wildfire through Europe. It was questioning the old ways. New interest in the humanities, and I do not mean humanism in the sense we know it, but in arts and language and music and doubting old suppositions and questioning the new ways. Also, there was a tendency to an interest in local governments rather than simply having one holy Roman emperor like Charles V. There came the idea that local provinces would have the right to govern themselves.
Likewise, there was a dissatisfaction with the Church. You remember this very well that there was such blatant perversion within the Roman Catholic Church at that time. Priests were having illegitimate children. There were indulgences which you may remember was when they would say people go to purgatory, which has no biblical basis, and the only way to get your loved ones out of purgatory was what—you remember, give some money! If you have ever seen the film, “Luther,” it is a wonderful film which describes some of the issues occurring. Simony, which was the selling of church offices, was common. If you wanted your nephew to be a high-ranking Church official, just offer the priest a certain amount of money and it was just amazing what could happen. Thus all over there was just a time of new thinking and questioning. A new spirit had come upon Europe.
It is so interesting that Luther, of course, would bring this whole idea of questioning the authority of the Church and the practices of the Catholic Church at a time when the conditions were ripe for something to happen. It is also important to remember that the printing press had been invented about 50 years before and this was probably, some historians say the most important development of the second millennium. Because of the invention of the printing press people were learning to read and there was a way to spread information. So, all of this happened at once. The time came for the Reformation.
Now, when Luther began this movement he did not intend to begin a movement. He wanted to have a debate about some of these issues. He did not get a debate; he got a Reformation. Out of this whole movement, you may remember the five solas of the Reformation where the reformers came to reestablish their faith, a biblical faith, that it was grace alone. By grace alone are we saved through faith. Scripture alone is our authority. Faith alone is the justification. Christ alone is our way of salvation. Sola Deo Gloria, everything exists for the glory of God. These five solas, Latin for “only,” came out of the Reformation and really took the Church and set it back on a biblical path because it had veered off.
Now, let us get down to Luther and Katie. Luther was a monk in Germany who was going into law. There are all kinds of stuff written about him. You can read his story anywhere you want to. It is everywhere. He became a priest, but he was tormented by his own lack of commitment, his lack of security. He was just consumed with his sin. He thought he could never get to heaven by his own righteousness. He just was a tormented soul. Really, you read these things about him. He just tormented himself with his questions and his doubts. He ended up having a very deep spiritual experience where through the book of Romans he realized, he came to understand, the Holy Spirit so gracefully imparted understanding to him. In the book of Romans, the Bible talks about the righteousness of God. That Christ’s righteousness is imparted to us. It does not mean that we have to be perfect. It means that when God looks at us, once we have given our life to Jesus, he sees Christ. It is a passive righteousness, if you want to call it that. Once he got that in his mind that changed everything for him. So, he began to really study scripture. He was the pastor at a little church in Wittenberg, Germany. One day, he had some questions he had, things he wanted to debate within the Church. So he posted his 95 Theses, his 95 questions, on the door of the church—which was the bulletin board. That was kind of like the bulletin board of the church. So he posted it there. Little did he know that he would never quite get around to these debates. He would have many more significant arguments that would come his way.
Well, in keeping with our story of Katie, let me just narrow this down. One of Luther’s questions, one of his arguments with the Church, was celibacy. He began to look at scripture and he began to question the doctrine of celibacy. Did you ever see that old cartoon where it shows the little joke about the monk in the basement of the library? He is leaning over a book and he is sobbing. The older priest comes in and says, “What is wrong? What is the matter?” He looked up and he said, “It doesn’t say celibate. It says celebrate. We have misread it all these years.” That is kind of what Martin Luther did. He started looking at scripture and questioning the whole doctrine of celibacy.
Now, to be fair, in I Corinthians 7, I believe it is, you know Paul talks about that it is better to marry than to burn with lust. He talks about the advantages of being single and not having a family so you can preach and travel and all of that. Well, the Church had pulled that specific advice out of scripture and made it more or less a required doctrine of the Church. Now, in the early centuries of the Church there were men and women who were married—pastors, monks, priests who were married. Yet, of course, we do not know anything about their wives lives because usually they died about age 30 having babies and they could not read or write anyway so we do not know much about their lives. By the twelfth century, one of the Church councils, the second letter in council, outlawed marriage for priests.
There were plenty of places though, where there were exceptions. We know there were plenty of illegitimate children running around Europe and this was a difficult doctrine to enforce. So, Luther began to question this whole presupposition that sexual activity, or bodily functions even, were sinful in some ways. You can read this back even in the time of Augustine. There was this idea that sexual activity, even within marriage, was less than desirable. It was not holy. It was not sanctified by God. It was a necessary evil that you had to do in order to have children. I am not sure all men felt that way, but, some of them wrote about it anyway as a necessary evil. He began to challenge this. That was one of the many, many things he challenged in the Catholic Church. He began to challenge the whole idea of celibacy. He challenged all of these different points of that Church. Well, his writings of course, you can imagine, spread like wildfire. You know what? They did not have the internet, but I will tell you what. You can be sure it spread everywhere within every convent, every monastery. People were getting papers stuck under their door, you know, with information about Luther, about his challenges. Some people thought he was the most refreshing voice which had come along; other people thought he was, of course, Satan himself.
Well, there was this Cistercian convent in the Torgau area where Katie Luther was from. “Katherina von Bora” (as her name was then) was in this convent, and it was a very, very secluded monastery under the local province of a man who was an enemy of the Reformation. That is how Europe was. It was divided into provinces and districts ruled by a local ruler. They were either friendly to the Reformation or they were dead-set against it.
Nevertheless, all these writings of Luther got into this convent and so Katherina von Bora and 11 of her friends decided that they thought this guy had something. He was right on. They wanted to leave the convent, but it was against the law. So, she wrote him a letter and she said that we cannot go along with any more of this church doctrine and we want to follow Christ and we want to hear more about your teaching. We want to get out of here. So, they came up with a plan.
A man who was delivering fish in 12 barrels came in late one night to the convent, unloaded the fish and then loaded the nuns in the barrels. Now, don’t you know they smelled good! That’s the story. This is in the film, “Luther,” also. The wagon rolls up and these bedraggled women, smelling like we do not even want to think about, get off the wagon, right there on the steps of the church. Luther is there to meet them. He says, and, of course, there were a lot of his words recorded, that he looked at them. He said that he felt so sorry for them. They were such a wretched little bunch and they had problems because most girls were married at age 15 and 16. These girls were well past their prime. What was going to happen to them? Three went back to their family so that was one possible option. They could also go to a convent which was a little more friendlier to the Reformation, or they could get married.
Now, I do not know that you and I can possibly understand what a revolutionary idea that this was that these priests, who had left the church and left their vows because they no longer believed what the Catholic Church was teaching, and that these nuns, who had done the same, might get together. This was shocking. This was appalling to some people, but the men were saying, “Why not? We do not think there is anything wrong with marriage. This is a holy calling just like to the priesthood or to the ministry. Marriage is a holy calling. It is sanctioned by God. It is a gift of God. What is wrong with it?” So, of course, they would get together.
Martin Luther started looking for husbands out of his reformers. There is so much written about reformer wives. They were unbelievable. They were theological. They were literate. They joined their husbands as partners in this work. They had to house refugees all across Europe that were running from authority. That is a whole other topic. These women were strong, strong committed Christians. So Martin started pairing them up and he got everybody married off but Katherine. She had picked somebody out, but he did not want her. He said she was too feisty. Well, then he chose somebody for her and she turned her nose up and said he was too sanctimonious. He is holier than thou and she did not like him.
Well, he got really irritated with her because she did not like who he had picked out for her. The one she was initially interested in sure did not want her. So, she just pursued through the proper channel and said, “Well, I will just marry you.” So, he thought about that. He thought he would remain single, and he thought that she was awfully arrogant and picky. But, he consented and, honestly and truly, it is the truth. The Catholics, those who were against the Reformation, when they heard that Martin Luther was marrying a former nun, thought their offspring would be the Anti-Christ. They really thought Revelation was coming into play right here.
He was 42 and she was 26. They were married 21 years. It is really one of the most enjoyable reads you will ever have in reading about their marriage. He was gruff, stern, a thinker, a worker, and given to melancholy and bad moods as, you know, those tortured souls like those really smart people are. I never had the problem myself. I can pretty much go to the mall and I will be okay. He was everything—a lecturer, a teacher, he challenged civil laws, he wrote hymns, and he reformed the society he lived in. Many unjust and unfair laws he effected, which we will get to in a minute. Their marriage is one of the great stories. Their home was marked by tenderness, sacrificial love and respect for one another. It is a great story.
Katie had learned how to read and write, and how to study scripture in the convent. She had worked part-time in a home. As part of her service, she had learned homemaking skills. She had learned how to farm. She had learned how to fish. When they married, Martin Luther was given a cloister in a monastery that was never a home. The monstary had been closed down. Everybody had left. So, the government just gave it to him. It was called the “Black Cloister.” Does that not sound appealing! It sounds awful – a dark, gray, place in Germany called the “Black Cloister.”
Well, we can only imagine what it looked like. You know, in my mind I can see him bringing Katie home from their honeymoon and her walking in that door. By his own admission, his bed was straw. He had lain on the same straw for about two years. A dump even. You know…we will not even go into that. You all have had a nice lunch. Can you imagine? I can just imagine any of these women, but Katie for sure, throwing open the door of this place and saying, “We are fumigating this place and we are planting flowers. That is the first thing we are doing.” She just took over and managed his household and his ministry in such a way that it is a little bit like L’Abri with the Schaeffer’s. Who, in the 20th century, had that place in Switzerland where thinkers, young writers, and others would come and they would just have dinners together and talk and share and argue and debate. It was like that, although she had a lot of work to do!
One of the things that was so appealing about Katie is that she had such good humor. She was not afraid. She had great respect for Martin, but there all kinds of stories about their interaction. For several days, he had been in a really foul mood. He had been grumpy and gruff. Nothing was happening right and he was discouraged. He would not talk and just stomped around. So, she did not say anything. Then, the next morning she got up and sat on a stool in the middle of their living room. She put on black clothing and put a black veil over her head and just sat there. He came through the room and stopped. He asked, “What is wrong with you. What are you doing, woman?” She replied, “Oh, dear, it is just terrible. The Lord in Heaven is dead.” He asked what she was talking about that the Lord in Heaven is dead? “God is not dead!” She said, while looking at her veil, “Oh really, well the way you have been acting I thought that is what had had happened.” He laughed. She had a way of bringing him out of his moods. Another time, he went into one of these moods and locked himself in his office. Now, she had little children and guests and people coming in to talk with him. He just could not be doing that. So, she just kept going about her work and hired a workman from the village to come in. He just took the door off the hinges. Martin is sitting there and the door comes off and there is Katie and the kids. You know, faith. It is just really delightful.
They had such a complementary relationship. She loved to talk and ask questions. He would tease her about this. While she was doing needlework at night and he was studying, she would sit there and talk about such things like who the duke of Prussia was related to and then she would say, “Why does David brag so much about having humility? When he is bragging about it, how could he have it?” She asked him questions like that and he would sigh and roll his eyes, but their conversation was energetic and lively and there was this great complementary love of husband and wife.
He said this after being married, that marriage brought so many things to a church. It brought so many things to families. Up until that time, honestly, this is the truth, marriage was considered a secondary calling. The first calling was to the convent or to the monastery. That was seen as the highest calling. Martin Luther and Katie reestablished the priority of marriage as being one of the highest callings you can have, one of the greatest blessings. You could serve God just as well being married as you could in a monastery or a convent. He said, “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” It is a great statement.
I think what she introduced was the whole concept of being a partner in ministry. Paul talks about this in his letters. Remember just about at the end of every one of his epistles he says give greetings to these people, my co-laborers in Christ, my partners. These are the people who worked with me. That is what Katie would be. She worked with him in running the household, raising the children, ministering to the guests. This cloister was huge and there were a lot of empty rooms. So she had cots put in there for the homeless and for refugees. It housed people, sick people. She just did everything.
Really, the best way to look at her life is to go to Proverbs 31. If you look at some of the things about that woman in Proverbs 31 we see them in Katie’s life. Verse 11 of Proverbs 31 says, “The heart of her husband trusts safely in her.” Katie enhanced his ministry. He trusted her in raising the children, teaching them, educating them. She participated in theological discussions.
When he died, he left everything to her. Now, talk about safely trusting your wife. This is one of the things that was not normal in that day and time. When a man died, he left his inheritance to his children and then they, in turn, would provide for their mother of if their mother was dead the step-mother. This is not a good thing, right. Martin worked hard to overturn that law and left her his inheritance. In the note he said to give it to Katie because he trusted her totally to do what was right with his resources and to provide for the children. She worked willingly with her hands. Women in that day had to work crops, fish, and farm. She bought a little farm where she could raise cows and milk and all that kind of stuff.
“She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.” She mothered six children. She also cared for six other children who were orphans of Luther’s family—nieces and nephews, a nephew and a great-nephew. Of course, she had household help to manage. She had to manage all the servants and, you are going to love this, like all good pastor’s wives you know what she did better than anybody? She brewed her own beer. Don’t you love that! A good German. She brewed her own beer and everybody loved it. I love that. It is hilarious.
“She considered the fields and buys it.” She was a farmer. She planted vineyards. “She strengthened her arms.” She was energetic and strong and just busy doing everything. I love this. The Proverbs 31 woman “stretches out her hands to the poor” and Katie did that. She ministered to refugees. Her door was always open to the poor and to the sick. Some people called her as she ministered their own Catherine of Siena. Do you remember her? Catherine of Siena we had last week who ministered to people in the Black Plague when even the slightest touch would cause you to die of this plague. Catherine of Siena was unafraid to walk into illness and sickness and minister to people and hold their hands and their heads while they were dying. That is what she did. In fact, one of her sons, Paul, became a doctor and he said later in life that he was inspired to become a doctor by watching his mother minister to the sick. He said to this day, no matter how much training I have I can never be the doctor my mother was.
“She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” She had a wonderful reputation for kindness to other people. She had wisdom. At night, they would have, you can read these and there are lots of written records which they called “table talk,” which was Martin Luther’s theological debate at the dinner table. Students would come in. You can imagine how students and young pastors would want to come and have dinner there. It was called “table talk.” Many times, Katie if she could would join in the discussions and she would debate. I do not have time to go into some of the things they would debate about. He would tease her. He said on more than one occasion that Katie understands the Bible better than any pope had ever understood it.
So, “her children rise up and call her blessed” and they did. They loved their children. They had a daughter who died in her first year. Then, the grief of their life was when their 13-year-old daughter, Magdalena, died in Martin Luther’s arms. By all stories of his life, this was the great grief of his life and sorrow. He loved this girl, this daughter. They clung to each other for support.
Upon his death, she wrote that the only thing she could cling to was Psalm 31, “In Thee, Oh Lord, do I put my trust. Deliver me in Thy righteousness. Be my strong rock.” He left his resources to her. Her life went on and took many turns. A war came. They had to flee the cloister. They came back and everything was destroyed. She had to rebuild. She contracted some kind of bronchial infection and finally died. Her last prayer was this. She had one of her children write it out. “Lord, my Savior, Thou standest at the door and must enter in. Oh, come, Thou beloved guest, for I desire to depart and be with Thee. Let my children be committed to Thy mercy. Lord, look down upon in mercy on my church. May the pure doctrine, which God has sent through my husband, be handed down unadulterated to posterity. Dear Lord, I thank Thee for all the trials through which Thou didst lead me and by which Thou does prepare me to behold Thy glory. Thou hast never forsaken or forgotten me. Thou hast ever more caused Thy face to shine upon me when I called upon Thee. Like Jacob, I will not let Thee go unless Thou bless me. I will cling to Thee forever.” Thus Katie died. She lived a rich, full life serving the Lord beside her husband. What a portrait of service.
Now, quickly, what can we learn from Katie Luther? She lived in a very different time than we live. She, a former nun, was married to a reformer. There are some things, nevertheless, that we can learn from her life. First of all, often our life’s assignment takes a different turn than we expected. Is there anybody in here whose life has gone exactly like you expected it to? Life always takes unexpected turns in the road. This was true of her. Learn to accept it. She learned to accept it as God’s plan for her. Now, some of these things are difficult. Some are wonderful. I love this quote. I just read this last year in Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost.” I have read that book for years and years and I do not remember seeing this sentence before. I love this and wrote it in the back of my Bible as soon as I read it. “If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace. If God has made your cup bitter, drink it in communion with Him.” I love that. It is so good! If your life’s assignment is sweet right now, take it with grace and accept it with joy. If right now you are in an assignment that is difficult, you are going through a hard place, a hard time, you just remember your suffering is a part of the sufferings of Christ. Drink it in communion with Him. He suffered as well. He knows that road of suffering better than you do and can minister to you and strengthen you and walk with you along that road. Drink it in communion with Him. I love that.
Secondly, it is a good thing to be reminded that we can find God’s presence and His joy and serve Him in the ordinary days and weeks and moments of life. Sometimes the holiest moments do not always feel holy, right? Now, I feel holy at certain times in church or praising God or whatever. You can feel holy. But, there are other times when you do not feel holy, but you need to be aware that it is a holy moment. That is in the sacredness of the ordinary day. There is a big contrast between Katie Luther’s life and Catherine of Siena who would be alone for days on end. That is quite different than Katie Luther who was out farming and milking cows and birthing babies in the afternoon and being back to work the day, same thing the next day. This calling is holy and sacred. Sometimes I think we forget that. I do, don’t you, in just the housework and keeping the house going and work, your vocation, taking care of parents, taking care of kids, whatever you are doing? Sometimes it does not always feel holy, but it is. Where is God? Oh, He is in the kitchen with the pots and pans. He is not always on top of the mountaintop. He is there, too, but He is also with those doing the ordinary acts of service.
I was thinking about this about Mary and Martha. You know the story of Bethany of how Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha was so busy preparing a meal because 13 men had dropped in for lunch. She was irritable and she asked Jesus why won’t Mary come and help me? You know the story. He said “Martha, you have forgotten the most important thing.” Martha’s error there was not that she was busy doing work. It was not wrong of her to prepare food. They were waiting to eat. Somebody had to fix it. It was not that she was preparing food, that she was working in the kitchen, that she was taking care of the servants. Her problem was that she got so busy in the distractions of ordinary work that she forgot to see Jesus right there. That is what can happen to us. I just want to remind you that when you go back to your office and you do your emails and clean out your purse and you do some things you know you have to do this afternoon and on your way home you stop by the grocery store and the cleaners and you do all that kind of stuff. Ordinary acts of service are just as pleasing to God as praise and worship on Sunday morning if you do them unto Him.
There is a great statement that says the true calling of a Christian is not to be doing extraordinary things but to do ordinary things in an ordinary way. I remind you to think about that this week. We have three grandchildren, 5, 4 and 3, and then we have a six-month-old and we have another one coming. We have group A and now we have group B coming. I feel quite sure there will not be a group C because of the way group A acts. It is crazy at our house when they come over. We have a basketball player who has the basketball going inside with the Christian hip/hop music going because that is what the Mavs practice to. So he is making baskets, throwing the basketball in the places where you should not be throwing a basketball. But, what are your going to do? It is just the cutest little kid you have ever seen. You are going to let him do what he wants to. Then, we have two girls who have babies and strollers and they put on shows and they pull out all the chairs and all the…you just cannot imagine what our house looks like. OS and I just look at each other and say, whose life is this? What has happened to us? I always stop, I try to really anyway. The other day I stopped and I looked and within two minutes all the disaster, the mess, the food, the drinks, the music, the everything, the shows that were going on with all the babies and I thought, “I need to remember this is a holy moment.” These are sacred moments. These are sacred moments to hear a child laugh, even to hear him cry. The joy of life. It is life, even the busyness.
Last night working on my income tax I tried to say to myself, “this is a good moment. Somewhere in this is a good moment. I have an income. I can pay taxes. I live in America.” We are so blessed to live in America. There are holy moments in everything we do. That is what I think Katie found and that is what I want us to be reminded of today. Find the sacred in these everyday things of life. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto man.” That will enable you to find the sacred as you serve the Lord. Wherever you are, whatever calling you have, you can serve Him in that same way.
This article is an edited transcript of Susie Hawkins’ audio message on Passionate Faith. Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
Today we are continuing in our study, Passionate Faith on Display, walking through the metaphoric gallery of “Portraits of Women in Church History.” I have gotten a lot of feedback about how much everybody loved Katie Luther from last week. She is quite the loveable person. I know everybody enjoyed her, with her playfulness, her exuberance, and her personality. I love reading and studying about her.
Well, today we are looking at another pastor’s wife. She really is someone you have to study if you are going to study women who have been important in church history. This woman is Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley. If you could pick one quality in her life to emphasize, I believe it would be perseverance or endurance. Just the fact that I said that, what does that tell you about her life? She needed perseverance; she needed endurance. So, as we look at her life we are going to see how important endurance, perseverance, and patience is and how to depend on God to give you that perseverance to walk through circumstances like this woman, Susanna Wesley.
Now, endurance or perseverance or patience these are often words that are used interchangeably in the New Testament’s interpretation. It simply means to hold up under. It’s the word, “hupomone.” It simply means: “hupo” means “under;” “mone” means “to abide or hold up.” The idea is that there is some resistance. For example, the word picture is somebody who has bent over and carrying something on their back, right? So, it is perseverance. It is endurance to carry this load. But, it also carries with it the idea of resistance. Before we even begin I want to make that clear that when we talk about perseverance and endurance as a believer we are not talking about resignation. There is a difference between endurance/perseverance and resignation. Do you follow me? We are not talking about resignation, or giving up. That would be the “I quit; this is what has happened, and I cannot help it” attitude. No, we are talking about some resistance involved in that we continue to believe, continue to trust, continue to do the right thing despite the difficulties of that particular time we are in. So, I want you to keep that in mind as we talk about Susanna Wesley.
Why was Susanna Wesley so important? She, as I mentioned, is the mother of two of the most important men in church history, John Wesley and Charles Wesley. They were big. They began “Methodist-ism”-- the Methodist movement which came out of the Anglican Church of England. They were the ones who began that denomination. In church history, if you are going to do matching and you are going to match up something with the name “Wesley” you are going to match it up with “revival” because during the times of the first great awakening they were so significant in bringing revival. This was the case not only in England but in the American colonies as well. It is hard to overstate the importance.
Charles Wesley, you may know, is the hymn writer. He wrote over 3,000 hymns. If you read through some of the words of his hymns, they are so theological and rich. Of course, I had a number of the most famous all written down but can I think of one right now? No, of course not. They are so rich and so strong and so aggressive. His hymns are packed with theology.
The interesting thing about these two men is that the primary spiritual influence in their lives up until her death was their mother. She was the one who even toward the end of her life, when she was elderly and in bed, they would go and sit and she would pray with them. She would counsel with them. They would discuss difficult passages of the Bible. They could not say enough about her and her spiritual walk with Christ, about her counsel, and about her example. In a way, it reminds me of Monica, Augustine’s mother, in that Susanna had a profound influence over these young men. They, in turn, had such a profound influence on Christianity.
Now, Susanna lived in the post-Reformation times. So, it is after the Reformation, 17th century. She lived in England. Let’s give a little context of her time. “Protestantism” continued to splinter after the Reformation. You remember what happened. Martin Luther and all these men broke with the Catholic church and then they broke up and then they broke up. It continued to splinter or fragment across the continent and across Europe. Really, you could say that the spirit of the Reformation could not be contained to one place. This was very different than the past because Christianity had been centered in Rome or in Istanbul, right? You have the Eastern Empire and you have the Western empire, Byzantine Empire. So, Christianity was very centralized. Now, you have all these difference movements. Within the mainstream of Christianity, there was some crazy stuff going on. There was the sense that this new understanding and this freedom that they found and this openness of people, that they just could not contain it all. They were just overcome with all this new truth and new application. The new time they lived in was changing so much. It was uncontainable and it was uncontrollable.
So, as the Reformation spread through Europe, eventually it spread to England. Now, just think in your mind of a little map of Europe and think of where central Europe is and then think where England is. It is way up to the northwest. Catholicism and the Pope had had kind of a rough go in England anyway. They were a long way away geographically. The English, I don’t know, they were not so crazy about the Pope having jurisdiction over them anyway. They never were really happy Catholics in that sense. They had never really been very comfortable with the Pope. So, you know the story. Henry the VIII was married to Katharine and she had only produced a female heir and he wanted a male heir, of course, and so he decided he needed to divorce her because little Anne Boleyn had caught his eye. So, he wanted the Pope to annul the marriage. Well, the Pope would not do it so he said fine he would do it himself. The Reformation in England primarily was political so he could break away from the Roman Catholic Church, establish the reigning monarch in England as the head of the Church as opposed to the Pope. The Church practices and theology, basically stay the same except for that one thing. Now, what is interesting, though, that as that changed in England, the spirit of the Reformation, although Henry VIII did not have that, eventually made it to England. There were people who began to question and preach. John Wycliffe was an Englishman who had made a lot of inroads translating the Bible into English in the 14th century. After his death, his body was exhumed and burned. Yet people began to read some of his writings. They began to go into their history and look at their own heritage. Eventually, this Reformation’s spirit came to England.
Just so we know our terms, let’s review. You have the Anglicans-- that is the Church of England. Then you had the Reformers or the Puritans. The Puritans wanted to stay in the Church but purify it. Then, you have the Separatists and those were the ones who said it is hopeless. There is no purpose in trying to stay in the Church. It cannot be changed. We will separate. They were often also called nonconformists. That is where the Pilgrims came from.
Now, let us talk about where Susanna fits in this. After the Reformation came the Enlightenment. This was the Age of Reason which came on the scene. What had really happened by the time Susanna Wesley came along, was that the revival spirit of the Reformation had kind of died down. Many people were off to believing in Deism. Deists believe in the Creator, but they believed He has withdrawn from his creation. He was disinterested. He created and He said, “I’m leaving.” So, He left. There was a very, very weak and cold spiritual climate at the time Susanna Wesley and her husband began their ministry. There was a great need for revival. During John Wesley’s time is when many spiritual giants burst on the scene: George Whitfield, preached in England and in America; Jonathan Edwards, many of you probably have heard of him; Charles and John Wesley and others. There were some great spiritual giants during this time of the first great awakening.
The Methodist movement that developed at this time was born out of Charles and John Wesley. When they were in college, they began to meet with a group of young men. They prayed together. They fasted together. They would minister to the poor together. Basically, what they were was an accountability group. They were a small group. They were a small group Bible study. We all have those and know what that is. That is what they had. Out of that was birthed the Methodist movement and it comes from “method.” They had their methods of doing things. They had their spiritual disciplines. They had their ways of evangelizing. That is where the whole thing came from – having a “method.” They were also very, very big in the social gospel as far as doing things for people and ministering to the poor. In fact, if I may just take one minute, this is why we have some good Methodist women in here today who come from that tradition of lots of social action and it is from the Methodist women. Hillary Clinton is very proud of being a Methodist. She talks about how her faith has impacted her political views. Why? Her social action. It comes straight from the Methodist church. They have a strong tradition of that, a very admirable strong tradition of that, may I say. I have relatives who are very active in the Methodist church and that is how they are, too. So, they come by that tradition naturally. It goes all the way back to the Wesley brothers, even to the English Church.
So, let us look at Susanna. Everybody knows Susanna because we know she had 19 children. Did everybody here know that? Oh, yes, that is why people talk about her. She had nineteen kids. Yes, and you think you feel sorry for her now, but you just wait! There are always stories about how she would in her kitchen put her apron over her head to have her quiet time. Try that next time with your kids. See how that works. She must have had some great concentration skills that she could have her quiet time and do that. She was known for a million different things, with that being one of the most famous things.
Well, let us talk about the real story of Susanna Wesley. She was the 25th child and the youngest child of her parents. Can I just say parenthetically that the females in this family must have had eggs bursting out. I have never heard of so many fertile women. All right, her father was a London pastor and he was in the Church. He was a Puritan. He stayed within the Church and he worked very, very hard. He was a writer. He was very bright. He supported the Book of Common Prayer and he was very, very, very active in the Puritan movement as a pastor within the Anglican Church. So, he gave his children excellent education. She received an excellent education in the classics, especially in reading and writing. She was a very gifted writer. As time progresses with these women, we know more and more about them because they could write and because they could read. There was a lot of correspondence. We have lots and lots of her correspondence which gives us the picture of her. She was very strong. She was very independent. At age 13, she studied the doctrines of the Anglican Church and decided that her parents were wrong. Now is that a classic 13-year-old or what? She broke with her parents who were Puritans and thought the Puritans were wrong and she went back to the established Anglican Church because she thought her parents did not know what they were talking about. That is where she met Samuel, her future husband who was a pastor in the Anglican Church and they were married a short time later (when she was 19).
Susanna was like Katie Luther in the sense that she was strong and independent. She was very bright, but she had a sharp tongue. I am not sure she had the playfulness of Katie Luther. She did not have anything to play with. She had a hard life. Samuel was a very difficult man.
As a pastor he was very rigid. He was very moralistic. I would call him a hard preacher. That is what I call people like that. Do you know what I mean? There is not much grace. Just a hard preacher. He was not popular with his parishioners. They did not like him. They did not like his sermons. So, we are getting a picture here of Susanna and why she needed endurance. He loved to involve himself in controversies. He loved to go to pastors’ convocations and go to the things where they would talk theology for days and days and days on end. He would write about these things which nobody cared about. He just was not a good people person. He was a horrible money manager. We will see that he got them in terrible debt more than once, but he was a nonconformist. Now, the thing is she converted him back to her position. They kind of went back and forth through their lives, but the point is that once she married him, she adapted to his theological view. They were not in the Church, the official Church. There was not an official salary. They had to go to parishes and villages where they would be paid by people who were not in the church. You can imagine that was not a very financially secure position to be in. They first lived in small villages.
She had seven children in seven years and then they moved to an area called Epworth. During that time, she birthed 19 children. Ten of them lived to maturity. Nine died in infancy. Of course, this was a time when many, many, many children died in infancy. It was not uncommon that two-thirds of babies who were birthed would die in a family. It was not unusual at all. Of course, this is way before penicillin, way before modern medicine. So, this was not uncommon. When I was typing my notes I was thinking that nine children died. I stopped and I thought, “do you think just because a lot of them died it was any less painful for her than if it was one?” No. Right there, girls, is that not enough to tell you. There are two sad stories. I am not going to even tell you because it would make you too sad. The stories of many times the way these babies died and the suffering of disease was so horrible. It was a hard time. A very hard time to live. But, she birthed 19 children. Of the ten who lived, they were very bright and articulate. She was a serious mother. She homeschooled these children, of course. She taught them theology, and French. They knew math. She had a very rigid schedule. Would you not have to have if you had them all there at home. They got up at a time. They ate at a certain time. On her child-raising, she said that children were put to bed. Nobody sits by them and holds their hands. They go to sleep. One of her writings says that children are not allowed to cry loudly. They have to cry softly if they cry. Now, I would really like to know how she did that. I do not know if I believe that. I do not know how you do that. But anyway, who knows. She was something else. Maybe one look from her and they shaped up. I do not know. She was very, very invested in her children. She had 10 which lived to maturity.
However, her marriage was where we see Susanna as a woman who had to persevere and endure. In one of the examples and one of the famous stories about them is that they were praying one night together, Susanna and Samuel. Susanna was a strong supporter of the Stuart Line of the Kings. We cannot even go into English history. It is just too complicated and I still do not understand it to this day. They had been usurped – this king. King James had been overthrown and replaced by William from another family line. So, during the family prayers when Samuel prayed for King William, Susanna refused to say “amen” because she thought he was an illegitimate king. She would not say “amen.” It just made him crazy. He got so angry with her and he called her to their room. He said, “We will have to separate for if we have two kings, we have two beds. He said, “You need to apologize.” She said that she would apologize if she was wrong, but she was not. So, to apologize would be a lie and that would be a sin. Do you love her logic, or what! She later wrote about this and said, in her words, “Samuel immediately kneeled down and prayed and implicated the divine vengeance upon himself and all his posterity if ever he touched me one more time or came into a bed with me before I had begged God’s pardon and his for not saying amen to the prayer for the king.” Well, he left. Easy for us to say, but he left her with all the children. Do you think he took them with him? Oh, no. Do they ever? No, of course not. So, he left for five months. He conveniently found some convocation in London to attend. She wrote him several letters during that time saying that he basically abandoned the children. If we cannot resolve the two king thing, would you please come back and help me with the kids. In this letter she said, and here is really a summary, a sad summary of their marriage. She said, “I am more easy in the thoughts of parting because I think we are not likely to be happy together.”
Her daughter, Amelia, later wrote about her growing up in this home. She said that the situation in the home was best described as intolerable, want and affliction. Not only was there animosity between the two of them--andI am sure she was at fault as well as he was-- but there was extreme poverty. There was a saying at that time, and I am not so sure it is not still true. “When poverty comes in the door, love flies out the window.” You know how difficult poverty and want and affliction and no money what it brings to a relationship. It never helped. It always makes things more stressful.
Later, about that whole incident she said, “I have unsuccessfully represented to him the unlawfulness and unreasonableness of his oath, that the man in that case has no more power over his own body than the woman over hers. I am willing to let him enjoy his opinions. He ought not to deprive me of my little liberty of conscience.” Here is what I like about her. She supported him; she stayed faithful to him. I mean in that day and age what are you going to do? Women had no choice. But, she continued to be a wife to him even though clearly he wronged her. Clearly, he did not treat her as he should have treated her. This is what makes her all the more admirable is that while she supported him in his ministry, yet she was still able to express herself here. She was not beaten down, you follow me? You still see some rational thought in her, which is that since God gave me a brain and the freedom to have a liberty of conscience, then I have the right to not like the king. That does not mean I have the right (this is all private) to publicly disagree with my husband or publicly challenge him on things, but God gave me that right. This is the line she walked. This is what I admire about her as I have studied about her is that she somehow was able to keep her own sense of who she was and what she thought God had led her to believe along with honoring her husband as her husband and as the father of her children.
King William suddenly died. Samuel returned home and John Wesley was born nine months later. So, we guess everything worked out. The practical and philosophical differences between Samuel and Susanna continued throughout their married life. One of the times John had written to them after graduating from school he said, “I really feel like I want to go into gospel ministry and begin preaching at churches.” His father said, “No, you need more study. It is too early.” His mother said, and I will not give you the exact quote, but she said, “You have had enough education. How much can a person need to learn? Get out there and get busy.” They totally disagreed on how to advise their children.
Another interesting thing is that she was very popular with the church members. They did not like Samuel which, of course, made him jealous of her. If anybody in here is married to a pastor and you think it is hard when people criticize your husband because they do not like how he preached, oh, go read about Susanna. At that particular time if they did not like the sermon, they maybe would burn your barn down or steal your cow-- the milk for your kids. It is unbelievable what would happen to these people. So, they all disagreed with Samuel. All the parishioners disagreed with his political views. They all did not like his sermons. He was mean and rigid, so they were unhappy all the time which just made things that much more difficult for Susanna. He also got them into debt. He finally gave the money to her. Typical in that time, if one got into debt then what would logic tell you to do? You put the person in prison! Now, how in the world are they ever going to repay? Susanna worked with the constable in the village and found a way to finagle to get him out of prison so they could begin to repay their debt.
Later on, their house burned down which was also not unusual in that day and time. It really makes your heart beat so fast to read this account of this house burning and how they all barely got out. They thought John Wesley was still in the house. He was six years old at the time. They all began to cry and weep and a neighbor told them to look. There in the second story window was a little boy standing, holding his arms out. The neighbors went over and made like a ladder with a man on top of each other. They got him out. Literally, one second later the entire roof collapsed. So, he lived with a sense of his mother and his father saying, “God has delivered you for something. You have something to live for. You have a ministry. You have a calling.”
Another thing which happened to her (gosh our time goes fast with these women!). Samuel’s health had deteriorated and a visiting preacher came to preach. Well, do you think the people liked him? No, they did not like him either. She did not like him either. So, she began to have afternoon services in her house. Well, they all let her. She was famous for her Sunday afternoon services when they would just come into the kitchen. People would stand around the outside of the house and would sing, sing Psalms. She would read scripture and then she would read one of the sermons, one of her father’s sermons or one of Samuel’s sermons. The visiting preacher, do you think he liked that? No, he sent word to stop it and she said, “I don’t have to stop it.” So, he sent word to Samuel and told him he should tell her to stop it. That did not go over too well either. She said, “They are needy. They are spiritually needy. I am not doing anything wrong. I am reading sermons that a man wrote.” Here again, I want to remind you I am not saying right or wrong about any of this. That is what she did. She seemed to have an innate sense of what people needed. They needed encouragement. They needed warm spiritual nurturing. They needed blessing. Those meetings in her kitchen really were what John and Charles Wesley saw as a foundation of the strong work of God. He was very, very big later in the revival movement for having women prayer groups. He was another one who used women. He had no qualms about using women, especially to pray and to support the work of the revival ministry. He had no hesitation. Where did he see that work? In his mother’s kitchen, in his mother’s kitchen.
Now, when she finally died, she had had heartbreak all through her life. All her children married poorly. Are you surprised? Is not that interesting? Her daughters, I am sure, to escape poverty married badly. Some of them died early. John Wesley had a horrible marriage. He had a very, very, very difficult marriage, as did Charles. That’s a sad chapter in that story, but, nevertheless, after Samuel died she lived with John in an area called the Foundry in a revival center in London and there she would minister to people. They would send people with physical needs and spiritual needs to their mother so that she would pray for them. So, if you read her life’s story, you see a woman who endured just about everything. If you just think about what she endured, she endured such tribulation. Being pregnant 19 times, is that enough? Nine children dying. Hunger. Extreme poverty. Losing her house. When she lost her house, she lost all the family records, her father’s sermons. She lost everything. Loss of house and possessions, wayward children, seeing her children suffer in poor marriage. More than that, it is such a contrast with Katie and Luther, Katie and Martin Luther. Susannah did not have a man who was her soul mate, her love. You know, with the Luther’s with all the suffering they also had each other. Susannah did not have that. She had Jesus. She had Jesus.
Now, when I was thinking about perseverance, thinking about her, I really looked for a scripture that I thought would describe her. There are a number of scriptures on perseverance and endurance. You can read it in your Bible. We all need that. The writer of Hebrews said (Heb. 10:36), “For you have needed endurance. You have need of endurance for after you have done the will of God, you will receive the promise.” I think Romans 5:1-5, especially 3-5, says it best: “Knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance.” Tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance brings about character, proven character. Not just character. You have lived it. You have proven it. Proven character and proven character brings hope and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. So, this patience, this endurance interestingly enough in Paul’s letters is always associated with hope. I love that. That is why I said at the very beginning, we are not talking about resignation. Persevering, enduring. The writer of Hebrews said, “Once you have endured, you will receive the promise.” (Heb. 10:36) I believe that is what kept women like Susanna Wesley. There are probably thousands of women like her. What kept them going is that they persevered. They endured. They walked with God because their love of Him, knowing that someday they will receive the promise. They will receive their reward. They had been faithful. They had walked with endurance and perseverance. They have carried that load on their back and they resisted it. They have not let it get the best of them.
I think that is the message that we have from Susanna Wesley. I Thessalonians 1:3 says, “I am constantly bearing in mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and the endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. So, what I want to say to you today, for those of you who are enduring, and everybody does at some point or another, everybody has to learn perseverance and endurance, but you do it with hope. I love that about Susanna that she just did not go jump out of the window one day and say I cannot take it any more. She endured. She endured to the end. Someday, as I think I have said before, when she gets her reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, can we all cheer just a little bit louder for her and give her her reward? What an example she is – in patience, endurance and perseverance, a woman who learned the meaning of that endurance and truly lived it out.
We are in our sixth lesson in our series on Women in Church History, portraits of significant women in church history.
We have used the metaphor of an art gallery in this tour. Today, we are walking past the portrait of a woman of whom I hope many of you have heard. Perhaps you have read one of her many devotionals. Her name is Amy Carmichael, a well known devotional writer. A woman whose main work was rescuing children in India where she spent 56 years of her life. She is probably one of the most influential women that has ever lived in church history.
If you have been watching any of the news, we are having some political things going on in our country. I vacillate between being interested and disgusted. I am little bit of a political junkie but then I get so disgusted with all of it that I just say, “Jesus is my savior and that’s all I know and I don’t care about anything else.” Then I am drawn back into it. It is really interesting right now. As you well know, we have this presidential drama shaping up. We have what looks like Obama as the Democratic nominee. Obama who does not look a day over 17. Then, we have John McCain, Republican, who does not look a day over 100. Then, we have the Hillary factor, and do not ever rule her out, people. It is just getting more and more interesting.
As I was watching this the other night I was sitting in bed and I was surrounded by several of these devotional books of Amy Carmichael’s. I could not help but think of the contrast between her and what we hear and see every day about “ the important people that are going to change history.” These are the people who will determine the direction of a nation and be the leaders of the free world. I am not disparaging any of that. It is absolutely true and it is a huge, huge decision that our nation will make. But, you know what? As I sat there I thought, “these people get all the national and world attention and a woman like Amy Carmichael can come on the scene of the world and live a portrait of sacrifice.” What a contrast. So this is our portrait today: Amy Carmichael, a Portrait of Sacrifice.
Now she has faded off the scene and millions of people have never heard her name. However, what she did for the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ is so far reaching that a presidential candidate, a president, a world leader, cannot even begin to touch that kind of influence. Leaders come and go. Do they not? They are seen as the salvation, as the change agents that are all fixing. No, they will not fix everything. Nobody here can fix everything in this world. It is really true that many of those whose influence lasted throughout history are those who have lived quiet, sacrificial lives for the cause of Christ. Amy is one of those.
Amy Carmichael personifies the spirit of missions and of rescuing helpless people. She was a woman missionary with a social conscience. Amy was born in 1867. She died in 1951. Interestingly, she was the spiritual mentor of Elisabeth Elliot. Now, they did not know each other, but she is the woman whom Elisabeth Elliot looked to as her spiritual director. That is why she wrote a very, very thick biography on Amy Carmichael called, “A Chance to Die.” This is a very, very detailed story of Amy’s life. Amy had a call to ministry, but it was all encompassing in a way that few other women in the time she lived had experienced. She was part of a modern mission spirit which swept the world in the late 19th and 20th century.
Now, let’s get a context for a minute of Christian history at this particular time. Remember we had the Reformation with Katie Luther and all of that. We had Susanna Wesley in the 1700s. She was an eighteenth century England woman with a hard life. I am sure you remember her. Then, we have Amy who comes along around the middle of the 19th century, born in 1867. Amy was part of the second wave of the modern mission movement that really began in late 1700 with William Carey. He was a very famous missionary to India. There is a very famous incident where he was at a church meeting in England and they were talking about the need for missionaries to go take the gospel to the east, in particular to India and China. William Carey said that we need to do this. A man stood up and challenged him and said that if God wants to save the heathen He can do it without us. In a way, that statement produced such a backlash that many Christians began to say that is just not what the Great Commission says. It was kind of the statement of the philosophy of the day. “If God wants to save the heathen, well He will do it His own way.” But, there were many other people who did not really agree with that philosophy. So this was the beginning of the modern mission movement.
These early missionaries went to these foreign lands really believing that once they went they would never return. Once they left the shores of their home, England for example, they knew they would never again return. Amy was one of those. Once she left, she never returned.
Now, there are many other. It is hard to pick just one woman out of this group because there are so many. Adoniram and Ann Judson were the first American missionaries to a foreign country. They went to Burma. It took them four months to get there. I just could not even begin to tell you all the things they went through. Physical hardship was just the first thing, because, of course, this is before penicillin. This is before modern medicine. These women who were married had to endure childbirth, losing children, tropical fevers, just everything you can imagine. Yet the Judson’s took the gospel to Burma.
Hudson Taylor, I am sure you have heard of him, a missionary who took the gospel to China. Lottie Moon, our own little Lottie Moon, our little patron saint in the Baptist world, went to China. David Livingston went to Africa. There is a whole line of pioneer missionaries who literally gave their lives to take the gospel into these nations and to establish a presence. Now, it is interesting. Not all of them expected mass conversations when they got there. They were taking the gospel to a certain place and they would begin to pray and bring the work of God into that particular geographical area. Many of them went years and years. The Judson’s went something like nine years before they even saw one convert. At the end of his life, he had buried two wives and three children. I could read you these stories of what he says sitting under the tree where he buried his wife and children. I am telling you, you would all be sobbing. It is just heartbreaking these things, but they stood by their call. They endured unbelievable hardship.
Now, what is interesting is that the cause of missions captured the imaginations of single women. Outside of the Catholic church, where you could go into the convent and find service and education and all of that there, there were not a lot of opportunities for single women. If you were Protestant there really was not an official place where you could serve outside of wife and motherhood. There was really no role for you. Here is where a call to single women began to gather momentum.
Many of these married women missionaries needed help on the mission field. They had domestic duties. They were having babies every ten months. They were having sick children and they were trying to translate the word. Can you imagine having babies, trying to take care of children with tropical fevers, and trying to translate the gospel into a language that did not have the words for heaven, hell, spirit, angels, etc.? So, not only in these languages do you have to learn the language, define an alphabet, put it all together, you also have to come up with a whole new vocabulary. Now, these are just some of the challenges that they had. So, single women began to become interested in this call to missions. Lottie Moon was one of those. Her sister was also. At the same time as all this, an idea gained prevalence that if one could win women to Christ those women were the ones who would Christianize that culture. It is the idea that the hand that rocks the cradle […rules the world]. So they were the ones who could Christianize the culture. Thus their thrust was for women to be reached in missions.
So, that was when mission support groups began. Almost every denomination had some kind of circle, mission group, or missionary union where people would pray for these missionaries. They would support them, take up offerings, and get them money. Mission support was born.
Now, Amy Carmichael came out of this kind of tradition. Amy was born in a seaport town, Millisle, in northern Ireland to a very strong Christian family. They were Presbyterian, and she was raised in a large family. By all accounts she had a very happy childhood. She had a father who was very active in her life. He taught her to ride horses. He gave her education in the classics, in literature, and in language. In reminiscing about her childhood she talked about her father taking all of the children swimming. People, it is so cold up there I can hardly imagine going swimming! Yet he taught them how to swim in the freezing waters of the ocean just in case they ever needed to know how to swim. I picture her as typically British with a stiff upper lip—though she was a blend of Irish and English. If you read her story, yes, she could take it! She could take the hardship. She was not a sissy by any stretch of the imagination. She endured abuse on the mission field, sickness, all kinds of administrative problems, and harassment from local authorities. I am telling you she somehow was able to keep her perspective about all of the hassles and tribulations she had to deal with in order to fulfill her call.
She had spiritual interests from an early age. There is a famous story that at age three her mother had taught her a Bible story that anything you ask God to do, just take it in prayer in believing that it will be done. So, she decided in looking in the mirror that she had brown eyes and she did not want brown eyes. I never wanted brown eyes either. You like what you do not have, right? She wanted blue eyes so she prayed diligently one night and she was so sure the next morning when she woke up that when she went to the mirror she would have great big blue eyes. It did not happen. She was quite disappointed, but somehow she continued on. Later on, she would recount that story with some degree of amusement. Years later, when she was in India rescuing young girls from temple prostitution, she would disguise herself. She would put dirt on her skin to make her skin darker. She would wrap herself in a sari and go into these areas where these young children were brought into prostitution for the temple gods. She and her little team of rescuers would literally pull them out of these temples. She often said were it not for those brown eyes she would have immediately been given away as a foreigner. The brown eyes enabled her to pass through the crowds and to become at one in the Indian’s mind with them. This was another way she knew that God was directing her life from the very beginning.
She went to boarding school as a young person, as many English did, to a Wesleyan school. Remember we talked about the Wesley brothers, with the spirit of revival and holiness. That was their whole emphasis. So, she was taught about a spiritual call on her life in following Christ. One morning, coming home from church with her brothers and sisters, there was a little old woman who was struggling carrying her bags. She fell down on the street and Amy noticed the church people all walked around her. Nobody would stop and help her. So, Amy elicited the help of her brothers and sisters and they stopped and they helped this woman up and carried her bags home for her. She always recounts that story as the beginning of the time when God would put in her mind that her call, her ministry, was to reach out to the needy. She said that “from this pool flowed the stream that is my story.” She had very poetic words and she loved Victorian English. Some of her writings are little bit harder to read. You have to work a little bit to understand them, but she was so poetic.
She began a ministry in Ireland where she would go into these streets, into the ghetto areas, into the poor parts of town, and gather children to come to another area for Bible stories. After Bible stories, they would have tea. You know, you have to give it to the British, don’t you? They are so civilized. They may be in the ghetto, but they are having tea. She would serve them tea. Monday nights or a certain time she would just teach girls. Other times she would teach boys. She began to notice that the lowest of the low class in her town in northern Ireland was a group of women who worked in the factories. They were called the “shawlies.” The reason they were called shawlies is that they were so poor they could not afford hats, which were the fashion of the day. They would just wear shawls over their heads. This is where she found her most meaningful work. She began to meet with them, work with them, pray with them, teach them the Bible, teach them how to read, and how to write. Everyone kind of turned up their nose at her working with these people. She met two women through a “chance” meeting. They had some resources. She told them about her work. Then she challenged them to donate a hall for her Bible studies to meet in for her shawlies and other groups. Lo and behold they did, much to everyone’s amazement. She organized all this by herself. She did not have anybody helping her. She just went to these women and they got it done. She had an amazing ability to persuade people to do things for the gospel.
When I was reading this about her, knowing what I know about her in her later life, it was such an example that as you are faithful in small things, God will give you bigger opportunities. She pursued with all her heart her calling to the shawlies and to the poor children in northern Ireland. Then, God began to give her greater opportunities as He called her in the ministry. She met a man that she worked with for a while who was active in the Keswick movement. He was a big influence to her. She worked for him like a personal secretary for a while and learned a lot about administration.
She was struggling with her call to missions because she knew how difficult it was to go alone. That is what one would often hear from missionaries writing letters back on how difficult and how lonely it was— even for married couples. How lonely it is to be so isolated from family, friends, and from your culture. This is what she said, “One day, many years ago, I went alone to a cave in the mountains, called Arima.” (This is when she was for a short time in Japan.) “I have feelings of fear about the future. That is why I went there to be alone with God. The devil kept whispering ‘it’s was all right now, but what about afterward? You are going to be so very, very lonely.’ He painted pictures of loneliness. I can see them still. And, I turned to my God in a kind of desperation and said, Lord, what can I do? How can I go on to the end? And, the Lord said, Amy, none of them that trust in Me shall be desolate. That word has been with me ever since.” This is the word that she carried with her: I will see that none that trust in me will ever be desolate or alone.
She had a few false starts. First she went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka today). Then she went to Japan. Japan was a disappointment to her. She learned that there was a lot of discontent among missionaries. There was a lot of tension on the mission field. She resolved then and there that if God gave her a place of ministry that she would do everything within her power to promote good will and harmony among the missionaries at her mission station. She found that to be a difficult time in her life.
She was such a writer. She wrote something like 35 books. I could not even begin to share with you all the things that she would write. But, she would write her prayers. Here is one of the prayers she wrote while she was in Japan as she was praying for God to use her and to give her a passion for these people. She write, “Oh, for a passionate passion for souls. Oh, for a pity that yearns. Oh, for the love that loves them to death. Oh, for the fire that burns.” She was constantly seeking that passionate faith.
She became ill with neuralgia. I am not sure exactly what that is, but she had a lot of muscle pain. She had to return home for convalescence and it was during that time that she decided that her call was to India. So, she went to southern India, south of Bangalore, and joined up with a missionary couple there. They begin to tutor her in the language. She began to learn and serve as an itinerant missionary. She would go out into the country, into the villages, and bring the gospel. She would teach and share. This is where she saw first-hand everything that was happening in the Indian culture. She would write letters back home to these mission support societies and tell them what was happening. She was their eyes to see what was going on in the mission field. She began to disciple a group of young girls who were converts. She called them the Starry Cluster. They felt as they prayed that God wanted them to move to another area where there was a greater need and establish a community. They did this and they called it the Dohnavur Fellowship. This is what she is known for now, the Dohnavur Fellowship. This was the name of her ministry.
Interesting enough, all these missionaries that I have mentioned had some kind of social cause that they worked at within the country they were ministering. Do you remember what Lottie Moon worked on? She worked to banish foot binding. This ancient Chinese practice of binding women’s feet until they were literally crushed. It was the most painful thing. If you ever read about it, you know what I am talking about. The Chinese had in their mind that tiny feet were a sign of beauty. It was the upper class women who would bind their feet and it was so painful they could not even walk at the end of their lives. It would cripple them. The Judson’s worked to banish widow burning, which was the practice that if a man died his widow would be burned with him. They did this because when he went on to the after-life, who would be there serve him if she was not there?! We cannot have men serving themselves in the after-life! So the widow would be burned in order to go be with her husband in the after-life. They were diligently working to abolish the practice of widow burning. These are the kinds of social issues that these missionaries worked against.
Amy really found her true calling in this particular area. She had heard about these young girls who were sold by poor families. They were sold to the temples in order to get money for the temple priests through prostitution in Hindu worship. Sometimes they were kidnapped and indeed they were kept there for the rest of their lives. They could never leave. Some young boys were also dealt with this way.
So, they began to pray and ask God, “How can we help these girls?” One day, a woman literally came to her doorstep with a young seven-year-old-girl named Preena. It is a famous story of Amy Carmichael’s. This woman said, “This is Preena. This is her second attempt to escape from the temple. Her mother sold her into prostitution. She escaped from the temple and I found her on the streets. I took her home and her mother returned her again to the temple. As punishment, they branded and burned her palms to where they were just black. They punished her for leaving, for running away.” This little girl must have been a spunky little thing. She ran away again the second time and this woman said, “I found her again and I did not know what to do with her. I know that you want to help us. Maybe you could help this little girl?”
Amy was sitting down when this woman was talking to her, and this little girl walked right over to Amy. She climbed up on her lap, and called her “alma,” which was the word in that language for “mommy.” Well, you can imagine that dramatic event. What is interesting is that Amy instantly fell in love with this little girl and said “I will take her. We will care for her no matter what.” She began to think, “Is there something here? In that language, there is a little proverb that says “children tie the mother’s feet.” This means, as you probably well know, that children limit a woman’s opportunity as far as traveling and being involved in different activities. Amy had been this itinerant ministry person. So, she felt because of this that she had to limit herself to staying home in her area. She began to take in other young girls. Dozens of young girls were rescued from temple prostitution and hundreds of others from poverty and neglect.
She established an orphanage. She eventually established a medical clinic for them. She established a school for the girls, and she also ended up establishing a school for young boys. Her ministry call, was to rescue these girls, to redeem them, to win them to Christ, to give them a Christian upbringing, and to help them to fulfill their calling in the world.
Now, what she endured. It is just unbelievable the difficulties she endured. When she was doing this activities, do you think the temple priests just sat around and said, “darn we lost another one”? No, they harassed her. They burned down buildings. They called her demon woman. They started all kinds of rumors about her. They abused her. She constantly had the harassment of temple officials around her. They were always reporting her to the government or to authorities. She was having to explain herself to the government. Really, I do not know of any other person I have read about that had to endure so much mean treatment all of the time in her life! I think about that little girl learning to swim in the ocean. I think there was something so steely in her, so strong. Her backbone was so strong. Somehow she could deal with the infinite issues that were there every day and stay focused on her call to rescue these young girls. She stayed focused to take the light of the gospel to this foreign land. She was really gifted in that way.
She also learned first hand the results of the devastating caste system. She learned that a mother, even if her child was at the point of death, would not take the child to a doctor if that doctor was of a lower caste. She worked diligently to dispel this kind of viewpoint.
When she was 64, she experienced a fall and it was the downfall of her health. For 20 years, she was a semi-invalid there in India. She wrote 35 books, poems, songs. She was a prolific writer. Anybody hear the little devotional book, “If”? It is a very small little book. She wrote the book after feeling like she was dealt with by the Holy Spirit about Calvary’s sacrificial love. She is a portrait in sacrifice: sacrificial love. She wrote this little book called, “If,” and it is a lot of little sayings. Here are two of them:
“If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place or the twentieth, if I cannot take the first place without making a fuss about my own worthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
“If I can speak casually of the misdoings of a child, then I know nothing of Calvary love. If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain and sweat from the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
It is the most convicting thing you will ever read. It is so convicting. With her challenges, and her clear sight, what she held on to was Calvary love. She focused on the sacrificial agape love of Christ and then living that out in her life.
She spent 56 years in India. She is buried there today. She never went home. She never returned to her family. At the end of her life, she had a lot of sorrows. A lot of her close workers had died, some had left the fellowship. Yet she died in her sleep in her beloved Dohnavur, surrounded by the girls and her workers.
There are so many analogies here in Amy’s life. Remember how Paul was in prison at the end of his life? I have often thought how the early church must have said to God, “What are you doing letting him be in prison? We need him. He is the one taking the gospel to the Gentiles. He is our spokesman. He is our main man.” We know now in retrospect if Paul had not been sitting in prison, we would not have all those epistles. There was a purpose in that. Likewise, we have Amy’s writings today. It reminds me of Paul in that way. Because of her invalid state, she could still write up until the last month of her life. We have her writings, her devotionals, her thoughts. I encourage you just go online. Google “Amy Carmichael” and you will see a million things that she wrote. But, I think I would best describe her life in the scripture of John 12:24 where Jesus essentially said, “I must fall and die like a kernel of wheat that falls into the furrows of the earth. Unless I die, I will be alone, a single seed, but my death will produce many new wheat kernels, a plentiful harvest of new lives. If you love your life here, you will lose it. If you despise your life here, you will exchange it for eternal glory.” Surely, she was one of those seeds that was planted in the ground and then it began to take root.
Now, here is the thing. You know, when you look back at ministries, churches, and missionaries, they come and go as far as earthly view. The churches of the Revelation for example, were all in modern day Turkey. They are just ruins now. It is not the place. It is not even the actual church. It is the lives that are touched that go on for the influence of Christ. Dohnavur Fellowship was that time for her. It has gone down. It is going to come back. It struggles. Now, all of these ministries do. My husband always says that churches and ministries are a snapshot in time. For that moment, God uses them, but He does his own thing, as we might say. We are not always sure why He does what He does, but He uses people, their words, their influence. I think it is interesting Amy is really the epitome of Jim Elliot’s (Elisabeth’s martyred first husband) saying, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” That is Amy Carmichael.
There is a scripture in Revelation 14:13 that I love. You know of wonderful Christian people who have given their lives to Christ and have gone on through death. We have a great saint at First Baptist Church, Esther Beth Rogers. She was a true saint if there ever was one. I thought about her when I read this verse the other day. In Revelation 14:13 I love this,
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying Write. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says his spirit, “That they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them.”
Amy Carmichael died in 1951, the year I was born. We have been talking about her life, her deeds, her work, her words, her portrait of sacrifice. I pray that it would encourage you as much as it has encouraged me. Go online. Read some of her words. Read some of her poems. It may be a little hard to understand her words at times. It will not hurt you to figure it out. It did not hurt me. It will not hurt you to read something a little out of the ordinary and to understand what some people have done.
When I was in China several years ago, I was visiting with a group of women in the area where Lottie Moon (who I mentioned before) had gone taking the gospel for the first time. One of the women there was sharing that she worked at the university. She said to Gene, “I have students in my apartment every night wanting to know about the Bible. Every night they are wanting to know about Christianity.” She said, “I believe the sinner’s prayer. I have to just lock my door some nights because I have to get some sleep. I then have to turn them over to Christ. I cannot direct them to churches because there is no freedom of religions, supposedly.” She said that the interesting thing is she read a scripture out of John 4:38 where essentially Jesus says, “You have not done the hardest work. You are simply here to reap that which was already worked on by others.” I think of that with Amy. There is a thriving Christian community in India. Granted, it is not all truly Christian, but there is a thriving Christian community. Everywhere these missionaries went, today the ministries do not look the same and they may have different names, but is it not interesting how they have thrived? I am talking about China and Africa and India. Any historian will tell you Christianity has shifted from Western Europe and Northern America east towards China and Korea. Why? You just have to wonder. Is it not because these people, these women, these men buried their lives for the sake of the gospel? One little seed sacrificed now sprouts up a huge crop. Now, they are the ones leading the way in Christian commitment and missions.
Not too long ago, we were in a closed Muslim country, and we were talking with some of our people who were there. They said it is interesting that the people who have the strongest calling to the Muslim world are the Asians. That is because they know nobody is going to listen to the Americans or Europeans. You know, we are the evil empire to many of them. Many there are anti west, but they know that Asians do not have that stigma. They do not have that particular connotation and so they feel like they are the ones God has called to minister to the Muslims. Is that not interesting? You know, God just does what He wants. He uses people who are willing to say like Amy, “Lord, this is my story. I will follow you. I will give my life in this way.”
Let me read you this and then we will be finished. On her deathbed, she wrote this,
One thing have I desired, my God of thee,
that will I seek Thine house be home to me.
I would not breathe in alien air.
I want to be with Thee,
oh Thou fairest of fair.
For I would see the beauty of my Lord
And hear Him speak who is my hearts adored.
A love of love can such wonder dwell in Thy great name of names, Emmanuel,
For Thou with Thy child, Thy child at home with thee.
Oh, Lord, my God, I love. I worship Thee.
Amy Carmichael, a true portrait of sacrifice.
We are finishing our series today called, “Passionate Faith on Display, Portraits of Significant Women in Church History. What we have wanted to do is look at women, many of whom we did not even know or know much about. We wanted to look at their lives, find out what they did, why they were important, and what their contributions were to Christian history and to the world at their time. Then we sought to draw a parallel out of Scripture, and give birth to the theme of their lives or the most important impact they made.
The visual we have been using is that we are in a museum and we are looking at an exhibition. In this exhibition, there are large portraits of these women. So, we stop every week to look at a portrait of these women. Now remember, we have talked about the whole idea of how history was recorded. Up until the time of the Reformation and the time of the printing press, unless they were in a convent, women did not know how to read or write. All we really have is what a few women who could read and write wrote. Primarily these were women in convents, or what men wrote about women. So, in the early years—the first, second, third and fourth centuries—we do not have an overabundance of information, but we do have some.
We talked about Perpetua who was a portrait in courage. She was the first young woman female martyr. She and her servant Felicity were martyred in Carthage in the arena by a wild animal. We talked about her courage. We talked about Monica, the mother of Augustine. She was the portrait of a praying mother with how she seemingly prayed that boy into the kingdom of God, literally chasing him across the Mediterranean. She believed that God was going to use him and he did turn out to be the greatest theologian of the Church to this day. We talked about the Catherine’s, portraits of compassion. Catherine of Sienna was a Medieval mystic. We talked about her life and how she worked through the Black Plague and how she worked for reform within the Church. We talked about Catherine Booth who worked with the poor in the west end of London. She brought the gospel to them. We talked about Katie Luther, really the first modern pastor’s wife, and her portrait of service and what she had to put up with. That was really a fun study, wasn’t it, because she was just so spunky and playful! Susannah Wesley was a portrait of perseverance. She had to persevere not only in difficult times with children and with the very times in which she lived, but also in a difficult marriage. She did not have a soul mate to comfort her and to walk with her. She had a difficult marriage. Lastly, we talked about Amy Carmichael, a portrait of sacrifice. Her life was typical of a number of women missionaries in that particular time such as Lottie Moon, Ann Judson, and Mary Fletcher. The whole group of them really led sacrificial lives. They gave their lives to take the gospel to heathen lands.
Today, we are talking about Corrie ten Boom, a portrait of forgiveness. There are quite a number of extraordinary women to choose from to try to narrow down a study like this to just seven women. One of the reasons I wanted to do Corrie ten Boom is that I am so afraid that her memory has been lost. How many of you in this room have never heard of Corrie ten Boom? About half of you last week had not heard of Amy Carmichael. That tells me that we are not telling these stories enough. This is a huge part of our Christian heritage and these women have made enormous contributions. We need to know who they are. Everybody needs to know who Corrie ten Boom was.
Corrie ten Boom lived during World War II. She was a devout Christian woman, a Dutch holocaust survivor. She and her family hid Jews in their home in the Netherlands in Holland, during World War II. Her story was told in a movie called, “The Hiding Place.” She wrote a book about that. You can rent that movie. I highly suggest that you rent that movie if you have never seen it. Jeannette Clift plays Corrie and Julie Harris, an English actress, plays Betsy. This tells the story of her family and of what happened to her in World War II.
We will get into her story very quickly in just a minute. First though, I want to mention that Corrie was a very prolific writer. She wrote a number of books. Her writing came on the scene as a new genre, really, of Christian writers. These were women devotional writers in the 1960-70’s. Catherine Marshall was one of those writers. Corrie was another. Anne Ortlund was one of these writers, as well as Anita Bryant. Some of you might remember these writers. This was before there was Beth Moore. This is before Anne Graham Lotts. This is when women writers and speakers were not that well known or that popular. Corrie’s thrust with all of her writing is about her experiences and how Christ can enable you to love and forgive. He can meet your needs no matter where you are in your life.
Corrie was born in 1892 in Holland. She worked with her father, her two sisters and her brother in a watchmaker shop. She was the first licensed woman watchmaker in Holland. Her brother, Willem, was a pastor. Even before the Resistance Movement hit the scene in Holland he was writing papers against the German Nazi Gestapo and the whole idea of the final solution in Germany. He was working with Jews in Germany. He was the one who taught Corrie, Betsy and their father the system of hiding people. There was a very elaborate system on how to do this.
They were a very devout family, Dutch reformed. Betsy and Corrie never married. They were very, very close as sisters. They held Bible classes every week for children and they also did a lot of work with mentally-challenged children. She called them the feeble-minded children. Of course, there were not any state programs for these kinds of children or families at this time. So, they did a lot of ministry in that area.
Casper ten Boom, their father, was very, very devout student of the Old Testament and he strongly believed that the Jews were God’s chosen people. The first time a Jewish person came frightened to their house, needing a place to hide, he said to this elderly woman—who was literally trembling—that God’s people are always welcome in this house. Through that experience, a woman was sent to them and that began the hiding place. That is the name of our story and, of course, it is literal. The hiding place was the room where they hid Jewish people, but it is also metaphorical, of course, in that Christ was her hiding place as she went through much difficulty.
As persecution began to increase, they began to take in more and more people into their home. They had carpenters come and build a little hideaway. Corrie tells the story of the difficulties, for example, of even feeding these people. There are so many stories to tell that it is very hard to just stick with one. She tells the story where right away she realizes they would need more food. She knew a man who worked for the government who was in charge of the food rationing cards. He had a child who was mentally challenged and was in one of her classes which ministered to this family. One night she went unannounced to his house, just basically to beg him for some ration cards. At his house, she says she opened her mouth. He just looked at her and seemed to know what she wanted. He asked how many do you want? She opened her mouth to say five and she said, “I want a hundred.” She said I do not know where that came from as he was so surprised but he did not bat an eye. He just counted out a hundred, handed them to her and from that point on she would just go to him, no words were spoken, and he would give her the ration cards. That was what her life was like. They observed the Sabbath with their Jewish prisoners who were there and they were also able to share their faith with them.
When Corrie was eventually turned in by a person who came to them saying that they had an elderly Jewish woman who needed hiding, she said of course she would help and made arrangements. They then were turned in and sent to prison.
She tells a story, and you may see it on “The Hiding Place,” that when she and Betsy were taken into the prison they were stripped and going through what we would call security now. She had her little Bible and she wanted to take in her little Bible with her. So she just asked God that she could somehow get that little Bible in. She did not need anything else, but she needed that little Bible she was holding. The people were lined up and they were being searched. This is such a striking story. Her heart was beating so fast! Then the woman in front of her caused a commotion and was pulled out of line. Corrie then slipped on through. So, she had her Bible with her!
They were first in a couple of other cells but then she and her sister went to the dorm in Ravensbruck. It was a horrible, horrible situation. It was a place built for 200 women but which now had over 1,200 women. They were all jammed together and scrambling for beds and for straw. She said the barracks was filled with so much lice that even the guards would not come in there because they were so bad. Becuase the guards did not come in, Betsy pointed out to her one day, they could have as many Bible studies as they wanted. So we praise God for the lice! Betsy was really the angel in the whole ordeal. Corrie struggled a little more with ordinary human emotions. It is a beautiful story of how they ministered and brought the love of God to a very, very, very dark place.
In one of her stories, she talks about coming out on a freezing cold morning for roll call. Some of the women were so weak they would fall. They could not stand up and, of course, they were beaten, which would really help them stand up! (sarcastic) She said you just do not know the darkness. That day Betsy was weak, saying to her, “Corrie, we are in hell. We are in hell.” The despair and the darkness of the morning and the weeping and crying, it was horrible. But, they heard a bird and she looked up and circling around the women was a skylark. It was singing. She said for about the next month every time they went outside for roll call that skylark would circle around them singing. She said it was as if God was saying, “My mercy is in the heavens. Look up. I am still here.” Just a skylark. That in itself strengthened her and strengthened Betsy and the other Christians in the group to take their minds off the sufferings of this time and to look up. One of her famous sayings is, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”
She was released from prison after several years on a clerical error. She found out later it was a mistake. The next week all the women her age were exterminated. When she got out, all she wanted to do was go home and try to begin to tell her story. So, she went home. She was 50 something years old when her ministry began. A single woman, an older woman, with some health problems, but she began to tell her story, her testimony, about love and forgiveness and how God can carry you through these kinds of situations. She spoke here in Dallas at First Baptist I think in the 70s. I want you to hear a story about forgiveness that she is famous for, but I want her to tell it herself.
I was not at peace with men. Sometime ago I was in Berlin and after a meeting there came a man to me and said, “Don’t you know me?” Suddenly, I saw that man that was one of the most cruel guards of whole Ravensbruck. My dying sister had suffered through him, but he said, “I am so happy that I can tell you I am a child of God. I have a Bible at home. I have asked Jesus to come into my heart. I have brought Him my sins. All my cruel sins that I have done and now I have prayed God: Give me the grace that I can ask one of my very victim’s forgiveness. That is why I am here. Fraulein ten Boom, I want to be forgiven. And he would shake hands with me and I could not. I thought of how my dying sister had suffered through his cruelties, but I knew from the Bible that Jesus had said if we do not forgive, the Heavenly Father will not forgive us our sins. I know from the Bible that hatred means murder in God’s eyes, but I also know from the Bible what to do with my murder. I said, “Oh, Father, forgive me in Jesus’ name my hatred. Then I can claimed my text Romans 5:5 Thank you, Jesus, that You have brought into my heart God’s love through the Holy Spirit which was given to me and thank you, Father, that Your love in me is stronger than my hatred. That same moment I could shake hands with that man. And it was as if I felt God’s love stream through my arm and I said, “Brother, I forgive you everything.” You’ll never touch so the ocean of God’s love as that you love your enemies.
Have you difficulty with forgiveness? Can you forgive that woman that has stolen the love of your husband? Can you forgive the man that have stolen the love of your wife? You cannot but He can. Claim Romans 5:5 and you will have forgiveness and love for these persons and then you are free. For forgiveness is such a great joy and liberation and it is possible for every one of us. Some of you have not such very great things to forgive, but you know, I had difficulty with a little, no, not a trivial of thing but was not so terrible. Christian friends with whom I worked had done something very mean against me and there was resentment in my heart. I said, “Lord, You have given me the grace that I could forgive the murderers of my beloved. Now, it is not difficult, Lord, to forgive these Christian friends who have done these mean things. It was not difficult and was all right, but at 2 o’clock in the morning, midst of the night, I awoke and I thought “my how in the world is that possible when I think, ‘my friends.’ What have I done for them and they have…?” I said, “Lord, there it is again! You must help me. Take away my resentment. Help me to forgive and love them.” And, the Lord did and I slept well. The whole day was good. But the next night, again at 2 o’clock, I awoke and I thought, “My, now in the world when I think of ‘my friends, my friends’—Christian friends—what they have done!” I said, “Lord, there it is again. Help me to overcome that resentment.” And the Lord did and it was all right. But believe it or not a third night, again in the midst of the night, I awoke and I thought “what have my friends…” I was a little bit in despair and that day I met an old minister. He said, “Corrie, when I have…I’m a minister in a little town and on Sunday morning I myself ring the church bell, “ding dong” and then everyone knows the church door is open. But, when I ring the church bell, there comes a moment that I stop. After I stop, always there come “ding/dongs, ding, ding and ding-dong.” It doesn’t matter if they do not belong to the rest. Now have you brought your resentment to the Lord? If it comes again the feeling of resentment, then you just say, “Lord, that is a ding-dong that do not belong to the rest.” My, that helped me. That really helped me.
I hope you could understand her, with the “ding-dongs.” Could you understand her? The church, the man, the little preacher would ring. The pastor would ring the bell at the church and then he would stop ringing the bell, but it would continue to slow down. That is the ding-dong. Then, she is saying that even after you forgive and you really mean it and you ask God to help you do that, there are still some ding-dongs. Right, isn’t that true? There are still memories and there are still times when you say, Hey, wait a minute. I wanted to use this particular example of Corrie’s because I do not believe that she could have been as used as she was in God’s work were it not for her forgiveness. She could be a portrait of every one of these qualities we have talked about. It is really all summed up in her life. You could go a million different ways with her story, but that is what I want to emphasize.
The scriptures tell us that if we want God to forgive us, we must forgive others. I appreciate her honesty in this area. She goes on later to tell a little bit more about her story. She was writing “The Hiding Place” with John and Elizabeth Sherrill and they were talking to her years later after all of that. John Sherrill said to her I know your story about the Christian friend. Is that not true how a person, a guard, that was one thing to forgive, but your Christian friends was another? Cannot you see that this is so typical as that it would be much more difficult to forgive. So, he said, “Corrie, did those friends ever think and would they ever come to you and ask for forgiveness? Did they ever ask you about it?” She said, “No, they never did. They never thought they did anything wrong.” He said, “Really, are you sure?” She replied, “Yes, I have it in their letters in my file cabinet in black and white. I can show you exactly what they said and what they did.” He said to her, “Corrie ten Boom, are you not the one who talked about forgiveness?” She talked about how John and Elizabeth Sherrill stayed with her until she found those papers. She tore them up in little pieces and threw them in her coal stove in her house to burn, to complete the forgiveness. She is famous for saying that when God forgives us, He casts them into the deepest ocean. He then puts a sign which says no fishing allowed. That is the saying the John Sherrill brought back to her and said what about that sign. You are fishing. She admitted that was right.
Corrie’s ministry lasted over 30 years. She spoke in more than 60 countries. Her gospel message was the saving power of Christ and His forgiveness. Corrie was not recognized for the longest time. Basically, Christians who worked in the Resistance Movement did not receive a lot of recognition immediately after the war. But, Corrie was honored by the State of Israel. If any of you have been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, there is a garden area called the “Garden of Righteous Gentiles.” There are trees planted for the families of Gentiles who helped hide the Jews in the underground across Europe.
I want to tell you something really interesting. She died on her 91st birthday, which was 1983. She had a tree planted with a sign on it, “Ten Boom Family, from Amsterdam, Holland.” We happened to have a group there. It was 1992 and it was the year of her 100th birthday. We were touring Yad Vashem, which we rarely have time to do, but we were there. The tour guide said the strangest thing happened. There was a terrible, terrible thunder and lightning storm over Yad Vashem a few weeks ago. A tree was struck by lightning and it was Corrie ten Boom’s tree. The storm happened on her 100th birthday. I would not have believed that. I would have just thought that was a preacher’s story. I promise you I would not have believed it for one minute, but I saw it with my own eyes. When we were there a couple of years ago, her tree is much smaller than anybody elses in the Garden of the Righteous Gentiles because it had to be replanted. I am not putting any meaning to that, but it is just Corrie ten Boom and that is why you need to know who she is.
So, her message, her portrait speaks to forgiveness. In Greek the word forgiveness means to send away. That is why her illustration of sending your sins into the deepest ocean is so appropriate.
This week we talked about Passover and the Passover celebration that Christ was celebrating. You may remember in the Temple worship what one of the rituals was that the Jewish people would go through. The priest would take a goat and symbolically place all the sins of the people on that goat. The goat then would be sent away in the wilderness. Do you remember what that goat was called? The scape goat. It was sent away. That is the literal picture that God gave His people of their sins being forgiven. They were sent away.
Scripture tells us that we must forgive if we want Christ to forgive us. I am going to ask Dr. Bingham about that next week. I have some questions about that. Yet that is what the scripture says over and over and over again. I do not know about you, but I wish to have as much forgiveness as I can possibly get, right? That tells me then that I do not have the right to hold sins against people. If I want Christ to forgive me, I must forgive.
Secondly, we must ask as long as we are asked to forgive. I thought about this in this way for the first time when I was working on this lesson. You know when Jesus said you have to forgive seventy times seven, which, of course, we know was a way of speaking saying we have to always give forgiveness. After I listened to Corrie’s story about the ding-dongs, I thought maybe Jesus is talking there not so much about that many offenses, but maybe you have to forgive 490 times the same thing. You follow me, the dings and dongs? It comes back to you and you have to say the word, “I forgave that. I gave that up to You.” Do it over and over. Again, it is a process. It really is. That is one thing I appreciate about her and her honesty in that way. That does not mean when you give forgiveness to a person like that that you do not retain some boundaries and some standards yourself. There are healthy ways to do that. The verse she quoted in Romans 5:5 is so key, “The Holy Spirit is given to us that the love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts.” Listen, that is the only way we can do it. It is the reason we have the Holy Spirit—to enable us to do things that we cannot do ourselves. She could not forgive that guard. Could you forgive someone who beat your dying sister? They took her body and threw it into a room. Corrie had to go later and identify the body in a corner which was filled with a mass of limbs and naked women’s bodies. That is how she saw her sister for the last time. Now, that takes some forgiveness. Why could she do it? Because she realized the love of God, given by the Holy Spirit, was in her heart and could be extended to this man.
The last thing I want to say about forgiveness is this: that we cannot wait for repentance from the party that has offended us until we forgive. That is usually what most of us do. When they come to us and ask us for forgiveness and to tell us they are sorry, then we will forgive. Well, you know, sorry to say, my friends, that is not biblical. What did Jesus say? “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” Our attitudes toward others is to be an attitude of forgiveness, an attitude of forgiveness. That is one of the marks of a true believer. A true follower of Christ. Maybe repentance comes and maybe a relationship can be restored to a degree—depending upon the event. Maybe it never can be. Maybe that person has died. Maybe that person like her friends never does see anything they did wrong. That is not our business. Our business is to be sure that we do not have unforgiveness, hatred or resentment in our hearts. I think Corrie of all the qualities she had, her portrait of forgiveness is the message of her life. She said this, “Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. The forgiveness of Jesus not only takes away our sins, it makes them as if they had never been.”