Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "There Were Ninety And Nine"1 (Lyrics)
When I was a young boy in the Netherlands in the early 1940s, twice every Sunday, we went to a church in the Reformed tradition. On occasion, there would be some German soldiers in attendance. The occupying forces were mostly older men who were stationed in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, some for several years, and as a consequence, they learned to understand or even speak the language to some extent. Obviously, the ones attending church were Christians who felt the need to come to worship on a Sunday morning or afternoon, so they came to our church. Quite often, the people in church would look at them, nudge their neighbour in the pew, and glance in their direction, as if to say, "Look! Here they are again!" I don't know what the adults thought about them, but as a child, I just could not figure out why they were there. After all, they were the enemy, the unwelcome occupiers of the country. We were encouraged to avoid them, to thoroughly dislike them, and, dare I say it, to hate them.
Thinking about this made me wonder what the Jewish Christians, shortly after the time of Jesus, thought about some of the Roman occupiers, "the enemy", who had become believers in Christ. There are several passages in the Bible which tell us that there were Romans who sought out Jesus and believed in Him.
Last fall, we studied a big portion of the Book of Acts in my Bible class at the local Long Term Care Centre, and we were intrigued by the fact that Peter, a Jewish Christian, went to see Cornelius, a Roman. In a vision, he had been told that, to God, all people are the same. When he got to Caesarea, he even went into the house of Cornelius — imagine, associating with the enemy! — and while there, he started his speech this way:
Acts 10:28,34b-35 – You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (NKJV)
It became clear to Peter that all believers are one in the Lord. As a well-known hymn says it so beautifully:
- In Christ there is no east or west,
In Him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love,
Throughout the whole wide earth.
– John Oxenham
It is clear that in these days of refugee migrations, Christians need to reach out to the aid of our Christian brothers and sisters, and also to help those of other faiths, because everyone needs to know the saving message of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (NKJV)
Prayer: Our Father in heaven, it is our prayer that Christians everywhere will help oppressed people, being aware that believers are all one in the Lord, and everyone needs the opportunity to believe in Jesus. We offer this prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.
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Great message Joel.
A big AMEN to that message and prayer, JOEL.
Super devotion, as usual. Did the German soldiers stay to mingle after Church?
Do we dare to apply the same courtesy and love to gay and transgender as well?
Thank you Joel – as always a powerful message of God’s love for all of His creation.
Thanks for your insightful reflection.
A very meaningful devotion for today’s world.
Thank you for this devotional. I found it very meaningful.
Oh Joel, what an important message this is for our own times! Thanks for sharing this devotional with us. Blessings.
Thanks, Joel, for an interesting story of your life experience. History seems to keep repeating itself.
Well done and how true — but I wonder just how many in this world agree, or for that matter believe in Christ ‘s message for lack of reading a bible or attending church?
Thank you so much for your devotionals which are always appreciated. At our Bible study we are studying the life of Paul based on Acts and his letters. It becomes so clear that the Holy Spirit was in charge and needs to be in charge in our lives. For background material we are reading the biography of Paul written by the late John Pollock. Very helpful.
Thanks again for your thoughts.
Joel I thank you for this truly powerful application devotional. I posted it on my Facebook page, giving both you and the Presbyterian Daily acknowledgement. The way you used your experience to show what the fruit of the Spirit should look like reinforced by Scripture I pray will touch many more hearts. May Our Lord Jesus Christ bless you with peace, health and prosperity. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thank you Joel for your words. I find they ring true today.
We as Christians must submit to ridicule sometimes and hear the name of our God spoken in vain but if we speak against others we are punished.
I pray that the eyes of our fellow non practicing Canadians will realize that they have lost their faith and I pray the Holy Spirit convicts their heart to turn to Him again.
I have helped a refugee family in my parish, so you know my heart is in the right place.
God bless you.
Well thought out and deep reflection! Thank you! Blessings.
You are so right! Everyone is for whom Jesus came. The rest is…
Thanks for a wonderful reflection.
A Dutch friend, who grew up in Holland during the war, said German soldier were never in her Church.
What city are you referring to in your excellent devotion.
Thank you for contributing to the devotionals. You always have a different and good perspective on occurrences in our lives. I appreciate reading your thoughts.
You have had a very diverse live which adds great perspective.
I appreciate your message.
Yes, we must love especially those who have religions contrary to the way of Jesus Christ.
I pray for the Muslim people on this continent.
I pray that God will help us to show them that the gracious and loving Way of our Lord is the Greatest.
Good morning, Joel,
I read with interest your experience during WWII with German troops occupying your town in Holland, and how some of them attended your church on Sundays.
In the 1950’s I had an office job and in the engineering department there was a former German soldier who had emigrated to Canada after the war. He told me how he hated being in the army, but had no choice in the matter. We had a common interest in music, and I sang with him and his wife in a small choral group.
Thanks for this. It is a message we need to hear. I have been impressed with some media pictures of RCMP officers reaching out to persons illegally crossing the border with USA. One picture which gave me joy was of an RCMP officer holding up at arm’s length, a pre-school age child and smiling broadly as he played with her. He seemed to see that this child was a precious child of God, regardless of the circumstances. A similar picture showed an officer reaching out to pick a baby-carrier up out of the snow and handing it to another officer. The message I got was that they see these children as children in need and I was proud to know that our Canadian police have humanitarian hearts. Thanks for reminding us of our Christian duty to love all humanity regardless of the circumstances.