Chapter Fourteen

The next day was Saturday. “I don’t get it,” Earl said as they drove to the nursing home. What’s the deal with you? When you went to bed last night you couldn’t stop crying. You’ve been happy as a lark ever since we got up this morning. I’m still feeling bleak. It might be a good idea if you’d share your good fortune with me.”

“It’s not something I can put into words,” she replied. “It’s just a feeling that everything will turn out okay in the end. Whatever happens.”

“Ah.” A light bulb went on in Earl’s head. But he wished that he had been awake too. He deeply missed Her more frequent visits in the past.

Earl and Joyce spent that weekend with Cathy, as if the issue of the adoption was settled. When they told Laurie of the interview, she predictably expressed indignation.

“I know that woman,” she said darkly. “She’s a control freak. I’d like to. . .”

“Whoa,” Joyce interrupted to their surprise. “How do you get rid of darkness, Laurie?”

She was taken aback by Joyce’s assertiveness, but she managed to reply “Why, I guess with light.”

“Exactly. And how do we Christians light up the world?”

“Well, I’d say with the light of Jesus.”

“And what is the nature of that light?”

Laurie thought for a moment, unsure of the answer. “I guess it would be love. God is love, according to John.”

“Right again. So we don’t fight darkness with darkness. We fight it with the light of love, extended even to our enemies. Earl, give me your Bible.”

When he handed it over to her, she opened it to Luke Chapter 6 and began to read at verse 26:

“’Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them who hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you. And to him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them. For if ye love them that love you, what thanks have ye? For sinners also love those who love them. And if ye do good to them who do good to you, what thanks have ye? For sinners do also even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thanks have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye, therefore, merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye measure, it shall be measured to you again.’”

Laurie stubbornly continued to frown. She started to speak, but Earl cut her off. “I wouldn’t argue with that,” he said. “It’s the Word of God, and I also know where Joyce got the idea of where to turn.”

“You mean that you didn’t think of payback after Mildred got through with you?”

Earl laughed sheepishly. “You’ve got me there. I did. It was a very colorful sequence of images. To a large extent it was frustration on my part. The Bible is very definite about the callousness of the end-time society. The selfish, loveless indifference toward others. Already we can hear our younger generation grousing about how the elderly are cutting into what’s left of Social Security. On top of that, wait ‘til the full extent of the cost comes in for universal health care. Look how the Germans, among the most civilized people on earth, fell under the Nazi spell and went along with the labeling of some groups of targeted people among them as “useless eaters”. As you surely know, that didn’t end well.”

“It looks like America is heading down that same bleak path,” Laurie said.

“Yes, but there’s one thing that we do have control over, which is our response to that evil. Thanks to God and Joyce, I have finally come to an understanding of how Christians are supposed to deal with that kind of thing. Sometimes, Laurie, it’s not easy being a Christian. We really aren’t supposed to think like society tells us to. As a matter of fact, we stand in opposition to the ways of the world. But always in love.”

“Well, okay, if you say so.” Laurie clearly remained dubious about loving those who try to stick it to others. But let me ask you something. Have you noticed any difference around the nursing home?

“Well, I. . .”

“Let me get to the point. It’s a little quieter around here since some of our residents have been transferred to the main facility. Remember? The one I was worried that Cathy would be sent to? I wouldn’t be surprised if we got shut down within a few more months.”

It’s starting, Earl though miserably. Now more than ever we have to act like Christians in the face of evil. Earl made a mental note to thoroughly cover that aspect of Christianity in the Bible study, as Laurie always attended. He thought of how the story of Joseph in Genesis 37 through 45 so perfectly demonstrated the selfless nature of Jesus in loving those who wished Him harm. His thoughts turned to Pastor George and his sermon on loving those who hated us. He wondered whether George still felt loving toward the guy who had tried to do him in.

Indeed he did. George had recovered enough to deliver the sermon in Church that Sunday. The congregation was greatly relieved to see him back. Earl felt somewhat guilty about Steve’s going on to another congregation, there to mislead others, but this concern was quickly overshadowed by his joy at seeing George up and about.

“Remember my sermon about loving those who hate you?” George asked his congregation. “Well, it’s time for me to practice what I preach.” Laughter erupted from the aptness of the popular phrase. “They’ve caught the man who stabbed me. I went to visit him in jail last week. As a matter of fact, I plan to make that a weekly ritual. The man has some severe emotional problems, caused by a religion that’s essentially hate-filled and godless. I won’t go into specifics about it at that time, but just keep in mind that Christianity is the only religion on earth that isn’t actually a religion but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There are a whole slew of religions that teach methods for storming the gates of heaven on the basis of our own merits. It can’t be done, as you already know. I’d like you to pray for me in this new opportunity, as a matter of fact.

“Now I’ll return to where I left off so many weeks ago. I presume that Steve didn’t address the Book of Revelation?”

A resounding “no!” filled the Church. George ignored the implication of the vehement response and went to his Bible. “We’ll continue, then, in Revelation Chapter 6. We left off last, as you recall, with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, where we found two possible interpretations. Moving on from there, we next encounter the opening of the fifth seal. I’ll begin reading the Scripture:

“’And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes are given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.’

“So here we find ourselves at a time when Christians are being killed for their faith. It’s rather difficult to attempt to pinpoint the time that this represents, for persecution and martyrdom have been going on fairly continuously ever since the Church began after the first Pentecost following Jesus’ resurrection. I really wish you’d all go out and get for yourselves a copy of Foxe’s Book of Christian Martyrs to get a sense of how pervasive this persecution has been over the centuries. It certainly didn’t stop after Foxe’s day. More recently, Christians were martyred in droves in Cambodia and Thailand around the time of the Vietnam War. Then there’s been the huge number of African Christians killed for their faith. More recently than that, we have been witnessing an ongoing persecution of Christians in Middle Eastern countries as the people their respond to their “Muslim Spring” by attempting to stamp out Christianity within the boundaries of their various countries. I want you remember this, however: Paul was trying to do the same to Christians in Israel and Syria when God turned him into the greatest Christian who ever lived. So again I say with Jesus, love your enemies; do good to those who try to hurt you.

“Returning to the Christians under the altar in Revelation 6, we can’t be sure whether they represent those who die before or during the Tribulation. Personally, I tend to think that these are Christians who are martyred before the Tribulation. But you can be sure, from Revelation 14:13, that there will be Christians on earth during the Tribulation who will die for their faith, for the events of that Chapter are definitely in the midst of the Tribulation. We’ll eventually get to that Chapter, God willing, but I’ll read a verse to you now:

“’And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.’

“I’ll end today’s sermon with that. I’m happy to be back with you, and look forward to seeing you next week. Let’s turn to our closing hymn, number 261: ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus.’”


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