The Road to Friendship
A man who has friends must show himself to be friendly. We do not wrestle with flesh and blood. I never met a man I didn’t like. Opposition is the greatest opportunity.
Learn those four things, and you will be able to reach past yourself, through your fears, higher than race and discover wonderful people ready to walk with you to accomplish common goals.
Hebrews 12:6 teaches us not to be lazy but, through faith and patience, to inherit the promise God has given us. The word for “patient” here is makrothumeo, which is commonly interpreted as “patience with people.” Every promise has with it a protagonist. Embrace the person and receive the promise. But how does one embrace a porcupine?
As a teenager, we had Vietnam for dinner every night. Dan Rather would tell us how many thousand members of the Viet Cong had been killed. If you wrote down and added up the number from each daily mission, you would find that the entire country had been obliterated by the third year of the war. They were the enemy. They did horrible things to people. Their cousins, the Khmer Rouge, were just as terrible. And the Pathet Lao were worse than the rest combined. We had to bomb them into extinction, they said. They were against democracy and the basic freedoms of the American way.
So, it was with no small bit of preprogrammed angst that I followed the Lord’s direction and began to travel on and around the Mekong River. My friend Hubert and I traveled on foot, in the back of pickup trucks, by local bus, and on antiquated French trains reaching out to the once enemies of freedom. Along the way we prayed for everyone we saw; farmers and school kids, the forlorn and the thriving as Southeast Asia dragged itself out of the devastation of war. Each nation touched by the Mekong had been affected, and each people had stories to tell.
We were riding in the back of a pickup truck on a dusty road from Vientiane to Pakse, Laos. A horribly disfigured man was helped into the truck by several friends and local people. My blue eyes met those dark brown staring at me from the remains of the man’s face.
He spoke to the young Christian man traveling with us who then told me, “He wants to know where you come from.”
“Go ahead and tell him. And ask him if he has ever met an American.” The tension in the truck was palpable.
If hatred was a rocket, it scored a direct hit flashing from his eyes through mine to my soul.
Standing and with great discomfort removing his shirt, he said, “Why would you do this to me?” Even the Lao people in the truck gasped at the disfigured body of what had once been a strong jungle dweller. The plane that had dropped the napalm and subsequent agent bore an American emblem, and as he lay in agony seeing his family burned to death, he swore that one day he would get his vengeance.
I assured the young man to allow him to vent, holding back nothing and, with the support of the others in the truck, he did.
Giving way to tears of frustration and agony, he melted back onto the bench seat. I moved to sit beside him and through the translator apologized for the pain caused by my country. Having spent his fury and physical strength, he again fixed a stare into my eyes. Begging his forgiveness and sharing that Jesus had suffered for both of us, we felt the Holy Spirit speak through us to his heart. Weeping, he poured out his suffering on the One who had suffered for us all.
As dusk turned to darkness, foes became friends in the power of Jesus.