Monday, March 21, 2005

Strength of Convictions

Sometimes, having the strength of your convictions can really cost you. 

Holding firm to your principles often means you evaluate "success" by an entirely different grid.
One of the cool things about ministering in diverse places like Toronto, Winnipeg, Victoria and Los Angeles, is that you meet many interesting and colourful people. One of them is a great example to me of someone who stood by his convictions even when it hurt -- literally.

He was a recovered alcoholic -- meaning that he was always only one drink away from seeing his life slip back into ruin -- but had been sober for several years when we met. He had previously been known for his brawling ways, and had the muscles to back it up, so violence had been an everyday part of his world.

As a new Christian, he knew God was calling him to crucify his violent nature, so he diligently embraced pacifism as his new lifestyle. For him, freedom from his past left him no option but a life that was devoid of violence. He became a determined practitioner of non-resistance.

One day, he met a bunch of former buddies, who, bouyed by their own copious indulgence in alcohol, began to mock his Christian faith, his renunciation of alcohol, and particularly his pacifism.

"If we start smacking you around," they taunted, "you'll fight!"

He stood his ground, refusing to be baited into either an argument or an actual physical altercation. Then the first blows were struck.

Looking them in the eye, he not only refused to retaliate, he decided to follow Jesus' example before the Sanhedrin, and didn't even defend himself verbally.

Mob mentality, lubricated by excessive drink, took over. More punches. Vicious slaps. Brutal, well-placed kicks. When it was over, he was lying on the sidewalk, bruised, bleeding and gasping for breath, wondering if his nose and some ribs were broken. But his eyes never left those of his tormentors. And he did not retaliate.

"They beat the [expletive deleted] out of me," he admits, shrugging his massive shoulders. Then a twinkle comes to his eye, and a hint of a smile quirks about his lip. "But I won the fight."

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