The long walk

[Love] is not self-seeking. ~1 Corinthians 13:5

George2An old, gray-haired man walked into the headquarters of General George Washington. When Washington saw him, he took notice and stopped what he was doing. The old man’s name was Peter Miller. Washington treasured him as a friend, and for good reason. During the dark days of Valley Forge, when Washington’s men were cold and starving and sick, it was old Peter Miller who had worked so hard to deliver as much relief and medical help as he possibly could.

Now here the old man stood, having walked a long walk to see the general. He was there to plead for the life of his neighbor back home, one Michael Widmon. Through some foolish act, Mr. Widmon had been found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged. Only Washington could grant a pardon, and a pardon is what Peter Miller sought.

Reports are that Peter Miller’s words moved Washington to tears. Nevertheless, Washington said no. After all, he said to Peter, how could he justify granting a pardon to a man just because he happens to be your friend?

What the old man said next put Peter Miller’s long walk in an entirely different light. “Friend?” he said to Washington, “Michael Widmon is not my friend. In fact, he has been my bitterest enemy.” And it was true. The townspeople knew that Widmon had taken to treating Peter Miller with contempt, even going so far as to spit in his face.

For Washington, that settled it. He granted the pardon. He granted the pardon not because Peter Miller had made the long walk for a friend. He granted the pardon because Peter Miller had made the long walk for an enemy.

You and I might flatter ourselves to think that, on our good days, we might be willing to “walk the long walk” for a friend, or for someone who kindles our compassion. But to do it for someone who has hurt us, or disrespected us, or humiliated us? That’s something else entirely. Our inability reminds us how far short you and I fall when it comes to God’s command to love.

That’s why we need Jesus. Jesus walked the long walk in our place. He suffered and died for our every self-seeking moment. Because he did, he has secured for each of us a permanent pardon from eternal death.

And there’s more. God’s Word tells us that the same love which Jesus demonstrated for us is also what empowers us to lengthen our walk for others–friend and foe alike.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, by your Gospel promise of forgiveness, move me to walk the long walk for those in my life who need me to do it. Amen.

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