"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"A Christian answer to the unchristian deed..."

Over a year ago I read a book about faith by Charles Colson that I found at my local library. I found it highly interesting and thought I'd enjoy reading another book by him. Years ago I was involved in politics and have kept a bit of an interest in it though I've mostly become jaded by both political parties. However, this book God & Government seemed a good source for getting one man's thoughts on the roles of both church and state. So when I placed an Amazon.com order, I bought it. And it sat on my bookshelf ever since. I had many other books to read and seeing that 400+ page book just made me procrastinate for a while. Recently I decided I'd like to finish all the books I'd bought and never read. So I picked it up and started reading. The past two or three weeks I've been reading three texts and that is one of them. I've been posting a few thoughts to a Gmail draft of phrases and statements that I like, but when I read about the Communist regime's oppression of the Poles and one man's stance against it...well, this story just took my attention in such a huge way that I had to share it. Father Jerzy Popieluszko was only 37 when he died, but his life can still be an inspiration to those who are living oppressed and he remains a wonderful example of how we must overcome evil with good and act like Jesus. I hope you enjoy this part of his story. The first two paragraphs are some of his teachings included in the book.

"'A man who bears witness to the truth can be free even though he might be in prison ... The essential thing in the process of liberating man and the nation is to overcome fear... We fear suffering, we fear losing material good, we fear losing freedom or our work. And then we act contrary to our consciences, thus muzzling the truth. We can overcome fear only if we accept suffering in the name of a greater value. If the truth becomes for us a value worthy of suffering and risk, then we shall overcome fear -- the direct reason for our enslavement.

"'A Christian must be a sign of contradiction in the world...A Christian is one who all his life chooses between good and evil, lies and truth, love and hatred, God and Satan ... Today more than ever there is a need for our light to shine, so that through us, through our deeds, through our choices, people can see the Father who is in Heaven.'

Father Jerzy's influence did not escape the notice of the authorities. The secret police followed him everywhere. On the first anniversary of martial law, a pipe bomb sailed through the front window of his small flat, exploding in his sitting room.

Then, on October 19, 1984, while driving back to Warsaw from Bydgoszcz where he had celebrated a special mass and delivered a homily called "Overcome Evil with Good," Father Jerzy disappeared.

Thousands prayed for him in churches all over Poland. The steelworkers stopped their work in order to pray and threatened a national strike if their priest was not returned to them. The universities smoldered with unrest.

On the last Sunday of October, as fifty thousand people filled St. Stanislaw Kostka in an emotional Mass for the Homeland and listened in tears to a tape of Father Jerzy's final Sermon, Father Antoni Lewek, one of the thirty priests at the altar, received word: 'Just a moment ago it was announced on television that Father Jerzy's body has been found in the Vistula River.'

'I shall never forget what happened,' Father Lewek said later. 'In a second people went down on their knees, crying and shouting; what we had feared most, the worst, had happened . . .

'And then something very moving happened. This crying crowd managed to show that they could forgive. Three times they repeated after the priest: "And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." It was a Christian answer to the unchristian deed of the murderers.'

On November 2, the day of Father Jerzy's funeral, people marched the streets past the secret-police headquarters bearing banners reading, 'We forgive.'

Regardless of their expertise in murdering the body, the executioners could not kill the soul. Father Jerzy had taught his people well."

Oddly enough, when I read the Wikipedia article, it stated he was being beatified by the Roman Catholic Church on June 6, 2010 which is...today.

pg. 216-217 of God & Government by Charles Colson

For more on loving your enemy, please read Achelois' wonderful post "On Hating."


Sarah said...

That is so impressive!

What was the effect of their forgiveness? Did it help the situation to change for the better?

Susanne said...

Sarah, I like your new picture. You look so joyful! :)

Um, well, the Communist regime lasted another five years from what I understand, but on another level I think the ability and willingness of this crowd to offer forgiveness spoke volumes. I guess we won't ever know how people were affected by that, but wouldn't it be cool to know how this impacted individual people in that land? I know the story really was a great example to me. I hope I could react similarly if ever in that situation, but I don't know. I guess it would have to be a work of God in my life to be able to do this. Kind of like Stephen in the book of Acts who prayed for God to not lay this sin to the charge of those who stoned him. Takes God to offer a prayer like that.

Thanks for your comment!

Suroor said...

How wonderful! I LOVED it! It reminds me of how the Amish forgave the shooter who killed their children. That is such a godly act. I hope this forgiveness gave them solace and peace even if it didn't help change the situation much. I'm sure Jesus would have forgiven as well.

Excellent post!

@ Sarah, you look so happy and so beautiful! I have beautiful friends :)

Wafa said...

fear is the problem. whenever we fear something we tend to hate it.
sometimes we need to be in the shoes of others to understand them and be less fearful of them and less hateful.
Forgivness "sigh" what a beautiful word :) . i wonder when will i have it completely. the problem for me with "forgivness" is that there must be some steps to be climbed before reaching "forgivness". i wish i can be forgiving in a second.
forgivness is one of the most selfish act , it works both ways and what a lovely work :)

Amina said...

OH this was truly beautiful!! I absolutely loved it.

Thank you so much for sharing!

The funny thing is that I just heard of him yesterday and it wasn't because of his being beatified by the Roman Catholic Church- I just happened to be quizzing my brother on his history book or something and his name was there. It didn't mention his story in detail like this, though! I'm glad you took the time to share it :)

(One last funny thing- my post yesterday was going to be about forgiving others but I ended up being too busy to post! How funny!)

Susanne said...

"A man who bears witness to the truth can be free even though he might be in prison...Today more than ever there is a need for our light to shine, so that through us, through our deeds, through our choices, people can see the Father who is in Heaven."

Suroor, in a way your post yesterday made me think of this in a new way. Father Jerzy may have been talking about freedom in the political and societal realm such as not living under an oppressive regime, however, I think by the way he lived his life and the way he taught his people, he demonstrated this part of showing the light of God through *deeds* and *choices*....I'm sure he didn't FEEL like loving his enemy, however, it seems he knew true freedom was when your soul, your reactions were "free" of self's natural inclination to hate and strike back. When you were free to choose LOVE and returning good for evil because NO ONE can take away the freedom to choose how we *react* to things. They can take away our rights to worship freely or congregate peacefully or look at YouTube or Facebook or whatever, but they cannot choose how we act in love and return love for hatred. True freedom is about this and not about being politically free. I thought his quotes above were a fantastic challenge.

Yes, the Amish reaction to the shooter is an excellent example. I'm glad you mentioned it as I'd forgotten about it until you said something. I think it is freeing inside because holding onto hatred and bitterness and that need for revenge is quite binding really. I've never met a person bent on revenge who was truly happy and peaceful. It must be incredibly freeing to be able to trust God to take care of the details and just let yourself love and serve others.

Thanks for your comment as always!

Susanne said...

Wafa', I'd been missing your comments so I'm glad you came back! Just last night I was looking on your blog to make sure you were OK. :) I love what you added about fear and forgiveness. Overcoming fear is often very hard for me to do. I at times repeat Bible verses that give me peace. Things like"God hasn't give you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind" and "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is fixed on You...because he trusts You." That's been helpful at times when I've had some mental fear about things happening to my family. Thanks for what you added!

Susanne said...

Sarira, welcome back! I've missed your comments as well and hoped you were not angry at me. How cool that you saw this guy mentioned in your brother's history book and your post yesterday was going to be about forgiveness - weird timing, huh?! We must be thinking similarly these days! :D Thanks for your comment! I hope your Quran test went well last week and you had a lovely weekend!

Anonymous said...

I have been living in Poland for nearly 20 years, and yes, the country has changed beyond recognition. No one has to worry they will be arrested - or denied access to education or employment or any number of other things - for engaging in religious worship. It has been a huge adjustment in other ways, particularly for older people. Of course, people still remember those who paid the ultimate price for their convictions, but at the same time they've for the most part been able to get on with their lives.

The only way I would say that this is not the case is in that there are ongoing investigations to bring to justice people who cooperated with the Security Bureau under the Communist regime. And names are being named in public. Various public figures - even, unfortunately, from various churches, Catholic and otherwise - have been convicted and removed from their positions. It may even be that this sort of housecleaning is a condition of EU membership.

But not everyone in society even thinks it is a good thing. Some view it as a distraction from more important issues, some view it as just plain unnecessary from a spiritual standpoint - that these people were just doing what they felt they had to do to survive, have ceased doing evil and have occupied themselves with doing good since then. And the fact that it is possible to talk openly about it all in public, in the press, without fear of reprisal - this is a huge change. So I am optimistic about the country's future.

Susanne said...

Caraboska, welcome and thanks much for leaving your thoughts. You came to mind as I wrote this and I'm glad to hear from someone who lives in Poland and has for some time. It was great hearing how life in that country is these days. You brought up some interesting things with your mentioning of people being removed from positions and "It may even be that this sort of housecleaning is a condition of EU membership."


Thanks for sharing your views on this!