Christian revenge

Years ago in India a group of men traveling through desolate country found a man seriously wounded lying beside the road. They carried him to a Christian mission hospital and asked the missionary physician if a bed was available. The physician saw at a glance that the man was an Afghan, a member of the warring Patau tribe. “Bring him in,” he said. “For him we have a bed.”

The doctor discovered that the man’s eyes had been injured and he was in danger of losing his sight. The man was desperate with rage and fear and pled with the doctor to save his sight. “I must find my attacker and extract revenge. I must kill him,” he screamed. “After that I don’t care if I am blind the rest of my life!”

The doctor told him that he was in a Christian hospital, that Jesus had come to show us how to love and forgive others, even our enemies. The man listened but was unmoved. “Jesus’ words are nice,” he said, “But they are meaningless. My goal is revenge. Vengeance is the only reality.” The doctor had to leave to attend to other patients but that evening he returned to tell the patient a story about a person who took revenge.

“Long ago,” he said, “the British government sent a man to serve as envoy to Afghanistan. On the way to his post he was attacked by a hostile tribe, accused of espionage and thrown into prison. The prison was unbearably hot, the food was terrible and he was cruelly beaten and mistreated by the guards.

“His only comfort was a copy of the Book of Common Prayer that his sister inscribed with her name and good wishes and gave to him when he left. He used it for his prayers and filled the margins with a journal of his suffering and faith. He was never heard from again. He simply disappeared. Twenty years later the book was found in a second-hand bookshop. The owner of the shop located the sister whose name was on the flyleaf and sent it to her.

“With deep heartache she read the entries. The last one, written in a different hand, said the prisoner had been taken from his cell, publicly beaten, and then forced to dig his own grave before being executed.

“She knew what she must do. Her brother had been tortured and killed in an Afghan jail. She must exact revenge — but Christian revenge. She was not wealthy,” the doctor continued, “but she marshaled all the money she could and sent it to this mission hospital. Her instructions were that the money was to be used to keep a bed free at all times for a sick or wounded Afghan. This was to be her revenge for her brother’s torture at the hands of Afghans and his death in their country.”

The wounded man was very quiet, silenced by the stor y of such strange revenge. “My friend,” said the doctor, “you are now lying in that bed. Your care is her revenge.”

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he served as senior minister for 23 years. He writes a column for several newspapers.

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2010-03-11 digital edition

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