This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, a young Russian boy did a remarkable thing, in the face of Christian suffering, providing us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
But love your enemies; do good to them. (Luke 6:35)
"What is it?" Russian captain Marco snarled at the young boy. "What do you want?"
The boy, only twelve, swallowed his fear as he stood before the Communist officer. "Captain, you are the man who put my parents in prison. Today is my mother's birthday, and I always buy her a flower for her birthday."
"Since my mother taught me to love my enemies and to reward evil with good, I have brought the flower instead for the mother of your children. Please take it home to your wife tonight, and tell her about my love and the love of Christ."
Captain Marco, who had watched unmoved as Christians had been unmercifully beaten and tortured, was stunned at the act of love of this boy. His tears fell as he slowly walked around the desk and grabbed the boy in a fatherly embrace. Marco's heart was changed by the gift of Christ's love. He could no longer arrest and torture Christians, and soon he himself was arrested.
Only months after the boy's visit to his office, Marco slumped in a filthy prison cell surrounded by some of the same Christians he had previously arrested and tortured. He tearfully told his cell mates of the young boy and the simple gift of a flower. He considered it an honor to share a cell with those he had previously hunted and attacked.
A moment of consideration: Art Linkletter, a television personality from days gone by, was famous for his observation that "Kids Say The Darndest Things." The spirit of Linkletter’s statement was certainly true in the case of this young Russian Christian lad. But even more importantly this reflected the movement of the Holy Spirit in a young life, and the Spirit of God provided the words for this boy to say (Mark 13:11) to the jailer of his parents. What a testimony of the Holy Spirit's power--to speak words of love to this youngster's enemy. What a testimony to the truth in Joseph's rebuttal (Genesis 50:20) for the moment at hand. God brought good from this moment. In his actions, the child was not overcome by evil, but overcame evil with good. (Romans 12:21). He overcame his fear, and spoke forthrightly of his mission. It was as if the lad were inviting the prison Captain to take the message of the fragrance of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) home to his heart--for Marco's life was changed by the action and words of this unpracticed youthful "evangelist".
The Captain in the scene met his own Road to Damascus "event" (cf Acts 22), in which he was stunned, and came to repent and cease persecuting Christ Jesus (having persecuted the Jewish Christians, our Lord asked Saul why he had been persecuting Him; in John's gospel, Jesus told His disciples that if they were persecuted, He was persecuted first. [John 15:20-25]) In this boy's life, Marco had been responsible for the imprisonment (and, likely, torture) of the child's parents; he had stood by numbly to the pain of Christians of many backgrounds as they were "unmercifully beaten and tortured". He thereby (in essence) "held the garments" of those who beat and tortured many Christians, just as Saul did at the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58). Marco, moved by the boy's innocence in showing kindness to his wife, experienced a heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
The young boy in the above account was he who showed the jailer compassion. Perhaps the jailer might have his own story--such as the following account of an embittered man who encountered the type of compassion that Marco did:
As a boy he had been kicked, cuffed, and cursed by unloving parents. He developed a hostility toward life and people. The world retaliated in kind. As a man he knew no friends. He had been called everything base and mean under the sun.
Hearing about him, a Christian man went to visit him. In response to a knock the man opened the door and snarled, "What do you want?" The visitor replied, "My brother, I have come to visit with you." When the visitor departed, he left behind a changed man, a Christian. Later an acquaintance, noticing the difference in the man’s life, asked, "What brought about the change?" The man replied, "He called me brother! "
We will never know the background of Marco, that led him to irritably say to our lad, "What is it!? What do you want!?" The Captain never thought in that moment that he was face-to-face with Christ Jesus. Is there someone you know who needs Jesus, someone to whom you can demonstrate through your friendship, your encouragement, your wise counsel, the love of the Savior? Look at the people around you. You just might be the only Jesus they will ever see. Just as this young lad was the demonstration of compassionate forgiveness (from Christ Jesus) in the Russian prison of that moment, we too might be the "light" that brings people to Christ in ours. The boy sought not to bring retribution to Marco's life, but merciful pardon in the form of a simple flower. Not vengeful judgment, but a gesture of unexpected kindness. The writer of the Book of Proverbs long ago wisely recommended to us, that If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)
Soon, after this meeting in the Captain’s office, a new prison official occupied the office. We are not told if the boy knew of the impact of his evangelistic work. We are not told whether another flower at another time brought similar results. Yet through this humble example, may we find that evangelism does not require fancy words or smooth communication. Our lives can be of use in the spreading of the Gospel by being honest, compassionate, caring for others, and willing to take the time to step out of our comfort zones--and take a “flower” to someone. And may our efforts be blessed with glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to the Kingdom of God.