Williams managed to cross the river by spreading himself upon the thin ice, thus distributing his weight over a larger area, and moving his body toward the other shore. Upon reaching the bank he was free from the officers.
However, one of them began running toward him on the ice — only to break through into the icy water — while the others stood on the bank, not able to help. Dirk Williams again lay down on the ice, worked himself out to the man, rescued him, and helped him back to the other policemen.
Williams was arrested and a few days later was burned at the stake. The people of Holland knew that such self-giving love would not go unheeded. The love Williams had for his enemy did more to overthrow the opposition than any army could have wrought on a battlefield.
Moses said we should love our neighbor as ourselves, and John, the aged Apostle wrote: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
“Every one who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7, 8).
Billy Graham asked: “What relationships need strengthening in your life? Don’t wait for them to grow cold and bitter, but ask God to help you strengthen them by putting God’s love into action — begin today.”
Jesus teaches that genuine love for evil men is more effective than the sword. In this day of self-centeredness, His doctrine of loving one’s enemies seems offbeat and out of tune.
He admonishes us to love those who oppose us, to pray for those who despitefully use us, and to turn the other cheek if we are slapped. This sort of Christlike reaction requires a double portion of Christlikeness. Perhaps this is why we don’t see more of it.
Doing good for evil does not come naturally; a Christian must work at it regularly. The Apostle Paul knew this, so he taught the Romans to live careful lives all the time. He told them to feed their enemies if they were hungry and to give them water if thirsty.
Then Paul, cognizant of the great value of doing good for evil, added, “For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:20). The dog will not forever bite the hand that feeds it; kindness breaks down walls that battering rams could never shake.
Of course, everyone odes not live his enemies. Some persons, even some professing Christians, literally hate others; and, like Haman, they go about building a gallows upon which to hang them.
This is not the Bible way of handling one’s opposition; therefore, like Haman, who was hanged on his own gallows, our hating others will become our own downfall. When a person sets out to destroy another, he is going perpendicular to God’s Word and usually suffers more than the other person.
Viciously attacking our enemies must is not God’s way. Pray for them, serve them, love them — that is how Christ said for us to handle our enemies. This does not mean that we are to be soft and vacillating toward their wrongdoing.
We are to be firm and unrelenting. Nonetheless, in spite of his offensive ways, shady deals, and false accusation, we must love our enemy as a soul in need of a Savior.
Christianity Today told about an incident of forgiving one’s enemies during the height of apartheid in South Africa. The story reveals God’s power to help a Christian forgive.
When riots flared among the major black population, a mob seized Mrs. J. J. Vermeulen’s seventeen-year-old daughter, the white Dutch widow’s only child and hacked her to pieces.
A neighbor boy who tried to rescue the girl met with the same cruelty. During the same riots, a nearly Bantu (black) Dutch Reformed Church was burned.
Mrs. Vermeulen admitted she had “the normal impulse for revenge,” and that many encouraged her to hate. She discovered she could not go to sleep at night hating.
When she learned the Bantus were trying to rebuild their church and that the mothers were contributing to the belltower, she gave a gift for the belltower.
Not only could she not hate, but she felt compelled to show her love in a positive way so they would “know that God had taken my hate away.”
The white widow was in church the day the new church and belltower were dedicated. She heard the first chimes sounding out the note of forgiveness.