There was once a soldier who was humble and lowly. He served and healed, provided medicine and bandages to all wounded no matter their affiliation in the conflict. He was a man, choosing to be present in a foreign land, full of enemies, to serve and heal; knowing that there would be wounded men and women, on both sides of the conflict, and wishing that none should go unaided. So he went willingly to serve.
While he was there, some men from his country’s enemy were captured and held in a prison where they were beaten and treated with disdain. They were left starving and naked, mocked, ridiculed, put to slave labor, and every day were only kept alive through morsels of bread and water, provided only out of the malice of the guards’ hearts.
So, the man risked life and limb. He sprung into action. He freed the men, even though they were his enemies, and sent them on their way in the dead of night back home with a strict command not to return to fight but to live and serve any who need aid. To bear the same heart of compassion and pity that he had shown them. However, some were afraid. They feared being caught while escaping, and being tormented all the worse when re-caught. So they refused to flee. But the few that left were so grateful to him for his risk and sought to do as they were commanded.
As is sadly expected, the malicious guards were outraged by the man’s actions, and threw him in prison with those that remained. Slowly they killed all the foreigners until only the man was left in the cells. Now that the objects of his companions’ malice was removed, but the malicious desires they had still remained, they instead directed it towards him. They called him a “traitor” and a “thief”. A “deceiver” and an “enemy”. They beat him and starved him. And when they had poured out their anger and energy on him, but now could no longer to even stand the sight of him, they killed him. They butchered him in the encampment square as a symbol for any that would aid the enemy. He was killed as a symbol to inspire a false loyalty through terror and fear for those that might follow his example.
The men he saved went on to never fight again, but instead follow in the example they had been shown: of sacrifice and of healing, of humble men, seeking to provide everything they were denied by their enemies, but being thankful in every moment to the one enemy that they attributed everything they had from that moment on.
As I’m sure is the case, you likely viewed this man’s home country as “the good one”, since he’s the focus of the story. We tend to do this; to place ourselves in the shoes of the main character of the story, to assume his circumstance is that of the “righteous” or “justified”. But as the story should have obviously shown, because of his heart, he was still a foreigner in a strange land, even if it’s where he was from. No doubt when they became cruel and disfigured, ruthless and malcious, your opinions changed.
What’s more, if this story moves you to a sense of compassion, even though it’s fake and is just about men and their convictions, how much more would a true story move you? When I tell you a true story that actually happened, will your heart be hard to it? The magnitude is immensely greater, impacts you, and more importantly, it is a true story.
You see, everyone in this room is in an encampment. We are held within “the gates of hell”, and you may scoff but just look at the state of this world. It’s self-evident. We are all stuck in this camp; creating factions to align ourselves as the good guys, fighting others only to become the villains ourselves. But we are all the men in prison. We are all subject to death; just men and women waiting on death row like the prisoners were.
But 2000 years ago, the medic came. He came to provide healing to all men, regardless of their country. Although, in the story, the medic noticed the state of the prisoners, in this true event he came specifically for the prisoners. He knew that all men were in this state, and so he marched into the encampment of the gates of hell, and made a path of freedom for all men to take if they would only look at what he did, not as treason or deceit, not as malicious and anti-country, but as the path of the rightly oriented heart.
We are all strangers in a foreign land. We see this reality right before us, but despise the calling to serve our enemies. But the gauntlet has been thrown. In this true story, the God of the universe came down and served, healed, blessed, forgave his enemies, and even while being put to death, likely naked and definitely in shame, as he was being cursed by his own creation he says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
He came for us; prisoners in a foreign land. In a land he never designed us to be in. He humbled himself by stepping down off the throne of heaven, putting off his glory to wash feet, touch lepers, rescue prostitutes and corrupt government officials from their lives of destruction, and humbled himself even to being put to death by his own creation as an “enemy” of the nation that he himself rose up and created.
If the story about the solider moved your heart in any way, imagine now that it’s true about Jesus. If the soldier’s act was an act of love and honor, how much more when the God of the universe steps off his throne, sheds his glory, and steps into the enemy’s camp to save you and me, the prisoners in this battle.