Grace Offers Endless Hope
In retrospect, the words of the Apostle Paul depict our journey up to this point:
“Through him (Jesus) we have obtained access to his grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:2-5).
We were a wonder to behold! We traveled for nearly ten months from Poland through Germany with a farm wagon and horses, in a motorized and mechanised part of the world. How did we find the place that we could call home? It was on “crumbs of grace” we received from people along the road. Four times, we were offered a place where we could stay, but our parents felt uneasy and out of place when “grace” seemed too abundant. They chose Wrexen where they had to start over from scratch. Why were our parents so caucious?
Large “Packages of Grace” have price tags
Free grace is not free. Some one redeemed it by paying for it with hard earned money and labor for a price, even with a life. Christians believe that was what Jesus did for his followers. However, are we asking Him what He requires of us? What are we giving for the “kindness of grace” we enjoy and share? Here are just a few things Jesus wants from us:
As they were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But he said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62).
And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26).
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).
Then Jesus said to the crowd and to his disciples. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practise and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deed to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the lace of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).
In real life “Grace” operates in a similar way
The Germans, who redeemed us from the Soviets, also had a life-paying price tag. We became the outpost for Germany against the Russians and the Poles. Poland became a “War Zone” and we lived in it from 1939 through 1945. During this time, just to survive we had to have a good handle on grace. Both times, the Russians moved us in the heart of winter, in January 1940 and in January 1945. And both times, our mother was with child and gave birth to a girl in a German refugee camp, where the girl with fifteen others also died. Then in 1945, while we were running from the Russians, she bore a boy who died seventy four years later. Our time of desolation and sacrilege was a repetition of what Jesus had predicted would happen to his own disciples. Just the bombing, torturing of innocent people, and taking the lives of seventy millions was more than an earthquake. The devastation of Jerusalem was pittance to the mass devastation of Europe and Asia. But ours was not the final work of evil, for its biggest evil is yet to come when the “globalizing of evil” against what is good, shall harvest what it sowed (Revelation 17-18; II Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-10).
“But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; and let him who is in the field not back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now and never will be. And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if any one says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand ( Mark 13:14-23).
Then Jesus said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (Luke 21:10-19).
We used “Grace” to harvest “Grace”
From a child I was taught that, “With my hat in my hand, I could cross the land.” By being gracious, kind, and polite, we too could count on our days to be bright. We had followed the German soldiers all day and arrived in Breslau (Vrotslav) in a plaza at the bridge that crosses the Elbe River. The soldiers crossed and we stayed in the huge open court. It was late, the horses were tired, the baby was crying, and out of nowhere two people in their seventies appeared, offering us hospitality and lodging for the night. While our father and I took care of the horses, unloaded the second smaller wagon and left it there, mother and my five siblings went with the old couple. Years later, my wife and I revisited the city and found the wagon on one side of the Plaza as a war memorial. The city was already evacuated and we did enjoy a good meal we had brought with us and a good sleep provided by that gracious couple. At the advice of our hosts, with whom our parents were generous, we were able to cross the river before the bridge was bombed.
As expected, we ended up on the same road we had left to follow the soldiers. However, this time, we were not allowed to continue West, but we had to turn on a road that went South to Bohemia (the Chech country). At the first small road that came up, my father told me to turn right, and we went down the hill with no breaks. There was snow on the road, father took the reins and had the horses hold the wagon with two heels on the pavement and two in the dirt on the side of the road. We managed to get safely down the road and had to drive similarly on several hilly roads. By nightfall, we came to a prosperous well kept farm, and again two older people were very cordial. Father was blessed with good graces and he was able to complement their accomplishment, in contrast to what we had left in Poland two days earlier. We learned that the war took the lives of their sons and we sympathized with them. They treated us well and assisted my father in attaching a break to our wagon. They also told us where we could get on the road to Dresden and from there to Riesa, where the Germans had taken us to be indoctrinated, before they settled us on Polish holdings. It was in Riesa where my sister and fifteen other girls were born and died; and they all were buried at the same time and day. Our brief stay with these people was mutually gracious.
We did find the road to Dresden and I learned something more about grace, how versatile it was. Our mother prayed much and put our safety in God’s hands, ans God put our care in our father’s hands. Our father (dad) had to “be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We were just intercepted by two “black Jackets,” Hitler’s dead squad double “SS” men, with demanding questions. These men could shoot any one under the slightest suspicion, and they were rewarded by the “Brown Jackets” or the Nazi Party. They asked in a commanding sharp voice. “Where are you going, why are you not in uniform?” And looking up at me driving the horses, “Why is he not in the service?” Father was very tactful and petitious, saying that I was still a child only fourteen, and that he was taking his family to Riesa and leaving them with friends, and then he would register with the authorities in Riesa. And when they saw our baby brother and my two little sisters, they mellowed, smiled, and left. I learned that even when we were in trouble, “living in grace” proved to be a very beneficial “living stream of the Holy Spirit” (John 7:38-39).
This was the second time, in a few days, that our father used a white lie to shelter his family. In both instances, our father had disobeyed orders. He was ordered to join the militia and he had told them that he would after giving instructions to his family. Those people did not believe our father; yet, they did not send the police after him. To me, they displayed a “sense of grace.” Therefore, two hour later, we were miles away from their headquarters, and again running from the Russians. When we were trying to travel West, the road was closed and the “SS” men made us go South. Two days later, we were back on the closed road again going West, and these two different “SS” men let us continue to do so. Again, there was “grace” in the hearts of these men. That night, we did camp in Dresden by the river Elbe, with thousands of refugees who also were allowed to go West. We also arrived in Risa, but our father could not keep his word and we were very uncomfortable with a rigged Nazi family. They were very gracious towards us; however, they also were very adamant about Adolf Hitler.
As Jesus once said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him ?” (Matthew 7:11).