This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Joseph Ton (Romanian Christian writer), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Years ago on a Sunday morning, Joseph Ton was arrested. The following day, the interrogations began. Around midday, a general came in who ordered the other two officers to leave the room. When they were gone, he started to hit Joseph. On the face, on the head--until he was exhausted.
A few days later, the same thing happened again. The officers had to leave the room and Joseph expected another beating. But the general sat down and said he wanted to talk to him. Joseph said: 'I would like to offer my apologies first.' The general looked at him in amazement. After all, he had hit Joseph and not the other way around. Joseph said he had done some thinking about the beating. 'I realized that this week, we commemorate the Passion,' he said, 'I am sorry I cried out when you hit me, for there is nothing more wonderful for a Christian than to suffer like his Lord suffered. Actually, you gave me the most precious gift I have ever received. Thank you very much!' Joseph also told the general that he had started praying for him and his family.
The general was so impressed that he promptly apologized. Later he would play an important role in Joseph's release. He had seen what he had never seen before: someone who told him he prayed for him and his family. There is no fear in love. The Lord sets us free and gives us love in our hearts for our enemies. We ourselves are blessed by it--and others are as well. And God is given the glory.
A moment of introspection: Intended for evil, but meant for good. Does this type of situation described in Genesis 50:20 happen today? Joseph Ton experienced just such a spiritual contradiction when arrested in Romania on a Sunday morning. What the interrogator had intended to do was to beat information out of Joseph. Yet what God meant through it was to soften the heart of the interrogator through the example of a humble Christian.
Why did Joseph demonstrate humility before the examiner? Perhaps because in the darkness of his cell, he did not feel fear. Perhaps he sensed the presence of God there in his cell. A story has been told about another Christian in a different situation, who likewise was impacted by God's nearness. A soldier who had been through a long campaign once declared the order to 'close up ranks' drove away from him all sickening fear in entering on the battle, for the touch of other men at his elbows made him feel he was one of a vast host, and thus the sense of individual peril was forgotten. Christ's 'Fear not, for I am with you' (Isaiah 41:10), is just such an elbow-touch to our souls; and we reply, 'I will fear no evil, for You are with me' (Psalm 23:4) Perhaps the presence of God put the beating, the hitting in perspective for Joseph. He inwardly saw the suffering he had just experienced in the interrogation, in light of the apostle Paul's insight shared with the Philippian church: Philippians 3:8-11 "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" [emphasis mine]--for Joseph remarked that there is nothing more wonderful for a Christian than to suffer like his Lord suffered. The apostle Paul shared this understanding with his protege, Timothy--asking him to share in suffering (2 Timothy 1:8; 2:3, 2:9, 4:5) for the sake of Christ. C.H. Spurgeon added,
'You can submit for Christ's sake to sufferings which it is not possible for seraphim or cherubim to endure.'
That is a powerful level of submission indeed. And Joseph was a humble, yet powerful Believer, in his imprisonment.
In his apology to the general who had interrogated him, beat him and abused him, Joseph chose to love his persecutor. An old French proverb says that 'To love is to choose.' Joseph decided to offer his apology first, to take the initiative and, sensing the Passion of Christ, to show the interrogator Christ's love, a free gift, which is most free when offered in spite of suffering, of injustice, and of death. (Archibald MacLeish) In that love, Joseph and we are able to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44). Joseph saw an opportunity to not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21) He said, 'The Lord sets us free and gives us love in our hearts for our enemies. We ourselves are blessed by it, and others as well.' There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) Joseph Ton shows us that such love is possible, and showed us the blessing to others and to us. In his story, Joseph has shown us a third way in which Christ delivers us from fear. The key to such deliverance? Perfect love. Christ’s love--shown through us. May we show Christ’s love to each person we meet, without fear, but with compassion. It's not up to us to emulate Joseph Ton, but up to the One who indwells us via the Holy Spirit. May we truly be an emulation of Christ in all situations--looking to Him for the accomplishment of His will in us.