There are just a few weeks left before Christmas. Stores are crowded with shoppers checking off the items on their Christmas shopping lists. This is a busy, and even a little crazy time of year. Finding the perfect gift for that special person can be frustrating. Sometimes we guess right. Sometimes the gift we select goes into the closet never to be seen again. No matter. We tried.
Today allow me to send you a gift. It’s not original. It’s not new. It’s not even particularly mine to give. It is an early Christmas gift that can make a difference. I was reminded of it reading a story about a man in Uruguay. He was thrown into a dungeon there for seven months although he had done nothing wrong.
Dr. Claude L. Fly was an agricultural consultant working in that country. He was seized by a group of rebels and hauled from his desk in a gunnysack. For the next 208 days he was kept in various dungeons by his captors. They thought he was an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He wasn’t. He was released only after he suffered a heart attack.
Soon after he was kidnapped he persuaded his captors to find him a Bible. He thought it would help him through his ordeal. They found him one. He never knew where they had gotten it. He suspects they stole it. During his endless hours of captivity Dr. Fly kept his sanity by going through the Bible. He went chapter by chapter, verse by verse, word by word. In a cage somewhere near Montevideo, he underlined passages that had special meanings for him.
Begging scraps of paper and pencil from his jailers he worked under whatever light he could find. He made a list of 90 things a Christian should do. Then he listed 70 things we should not do. After each item he drew three squares. These he labeled “Often do, Sometimes do and Not doing.” Then, difficult as it must have been, Fly said he learned to do these things in his contacts with his captors. He credits this with saving his life several times.
He was held in dark, damp dungeons although he was innocent. He was brutally treated. He never knew what moment would be his last. Under these conditions imagine how difficult it must have been for him to “love not only your brother, but also your enemy,” How about “Forgive any who may have trespassed or offended,” or, “Be at peace with all men.”
Following his release he said, “My only sustaining force was my belief in God. By practicing the dos and don’ts on my list I was able to let my captors know how a Christian should conduct himself under difficult circumstances. It also helped to keep my mind busy to keep my sanity.”
Fly credits one thought with saving his life. This is his gift that I received and would pass on to you. It’s a gift that can and will make a difference in our lives. He found it in Romans 8: 38,39. “For I am certain nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life; neither the present or the future; neither the world above or the world below. There is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This gift of God’s love is Christmas all year long.
This week’s question: In the New Testament a new covenant is instituted by Jesus. What does he use to symbolize this new covenant? Last week’s question: Who was anointed by the Holy Spirit? Answer: Jesus (Matthew 3: 16)
(Robert Lind is a retired newspaper editor and publisher. He may be reached at this newspaper or at email@example.com.)