Part X of our series on Doing Good
As we progress through our series on Doing Good (specifically to our enemies), there’s one question that always comes up:
Won’t we just be taken advantage of? Won’t people use our love against us?
Answer: yes. And here’s a story that illustrates that:
Late in the winter of 1569, Dirk Willems of Holland was discovered as an Anabaptist and a thief catcher came to arrest him at the village of Asperen. Running for his life, Dirk came to a body of water still coated with ice. After making his way across in great peril, he realised his pursuer had fallen through into the freezing water.
Turning back, Dirk ran to the struggling man and dragged him safely to shore. [As in the story of Acts, perhaps he “takes him by the right hand” and “helps him up.”] The thief catcher wanted to release Dirk, but a burgomaster – having appeared on the scene – reminded the man he was under oath to deliver criminals to justice. Dirk was bound off to prison, interrogated, and tortured in an unsuccessful effort to make him renounce his faith. He was tried and found guilty of having been rebaptised, of holding secret meetings in his home, and of allowing baptism there – all of which he freely confessed.
“Persisting obstinately in his opinion”, Dirk was sentenced to execution by fire. On the day of execution, a strong east wind blew the flames away from his upper body so that death was long delayed. The same wind carried his voice to the next town, where people heard him cry more than seventy times, “O my Lord; my God”. The judge present was “finally filled with sorrow and regret”. Wheeling his horse around so he saw no more, he ordered the executioner, “Dispatch the man with a quick death.”
Why did Dirk Willems turn back?
In Matthew 5:42, Jesus says, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Do not turn away—do you see the physical dimension of that request?) So what will we give? We will give something far greater than what they ask for.
We will give them the mercy of God made physical, the mercy that he first gave to us.
Jesus assures us that there is no hope in wealth or in saving our own lives. Our lives and our wealth already belong to God. In fact, our lives are part of his wealth. But here is what is much more important: his life and his wealth already belong to us! His life isn’t just part of our wealth; it is our wealth!
Martin Luther wrote that “in marriage, everything that properly belonged to the groom now comes into the possession of the bride, and everything that properly belonged to the bride now becomes the possession of the groom… ‘The believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own’” (Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology.)
So Christ, as the husband of his bride, says, “Let’s use my father’s limitless wealth to do good to his enemies. This will please him.” How can the bride refuse? And when that wealth is his life, and when our life is part of his life, our lives become a “touching place” for God to touch and be touched—and sometimes struck and spat on, too—by his enemies.
God doesn’t fear his enemies, and we do not need to fear ours. Scripture tells us in Colossians 3:3, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
So he directs us to spend his life and his wealth by lending to his enemies as he directs, and in his name. The money is the smallest part of it, but when we give the money, we end up being more likely to give our time, our attention, and our sight to them, too. When we give our money, our focus is drawn more and more to our enemies.
Our lives will be so tied up in theirs that we will want to do them good, not harm, even if only for our own sakes.
How can your life serve as a “touching place” today? What steps do you need to take to make this a reality and not just a nice thought?