Saturday, September 02, 2006

Story from Clarence Jordan

Roger recently preached and shared this story from Clarence Jordan, who was relating a story told by an old Austrian colonel in the Austrian army probably back in (apparently) World War I.

“I was commanded,” the old colonel began, “to march against a little town in the Tyrol and lay siege to it. We had been meeting stubborn resistance in that part of the country, but we felt sure that we should win because all of the advantages were on our side.

"My confidence, however, was arrested by a remark from a prisoner we had taken. ‘You’ll never take that town,’ he said, ‘for they have an invincible leader.’

“'What does the fellow mean?’ I inquired of one of my staff. ‘And who is this leader of whom he speaks?’

“Nobody seemed able to answer my question, and so in case there should be some truth in the report, I doubled preparations.

“As we descended through the pass in the Alps, I saw with surprise that the cattle were still grazing in the valley and that women and children – yes, and even men were working in the fields.

“’Either they are not expecting us, or this is a trap to catch us,’ I thought to myself. As we drew nearer the town we passed people on the road. They smiled and greeted us with a friendly word, and then went on their way.

“Finally we reached the town and clattered up the cobble-paved streets – colors flying, horns sounding a challenge, arms in readiness. Women came to the windows or doorways with little babies in their arms. Some of them looked startled and held the babies closer, then went quietly on with their household tasks without panic or confusion. It was impossible to keep strict discipline, and I began to feel rather foolish.

My soldiers answered the questions of the children, and I saw one old warrior throw a kiss to a little golden-haired tot on a doorstep. ‘Just the size of my Lisa,’ he muttered. Still no sign of an ambush. We rode straight to the open square which faced the town hall. Here, if anywhere, resistance surely was to be expected.

“Just as I had reached the hall and my guard was drawn up at attention, an old white-haired man, who by his insignia I surmised to be the mayor, stepped forth, followed by ten men in simple peasant costume. They were dignified and unabashed by the armed force before them – the most terrible soldiers of the great and mighty army of Austria.

“He walked down the step straight to my horse’s side, an with hand extended, cried, ‘Welcome, brother!’ One of my aides made a gesture as if to strike him down with his sword, but I saw by the face of the old mayor that this was no trick on his part.

“'Where are your soldiers?’ I demanded. “’Soldiers? Why, don’t you know we have none?’ he replied in wonderment, as though I had asked, ‘Where are your giants,’ or ‘Where are your dwarfs?’

“’But we have come to take this town.’

“’Well, no one will stop you.’

“’Are there none here to fight?’

“At this question, the old man’s face lit up with a rare smile that I will always remember. Often afterward, when engaged in bloody warfare, I would suddenly see that man’s smile – and somehow, I came to hate my business. His words were simply:

“’No, there is no one here to fight. We have chosen Christ for our Leader, and he taught…another way.’

“There seemed nothing left for us to do but to ride away, leaving the town unmolested. It was impossible to take it. If I had ordered my soldiers to fire on those smiling men, women, and children, I knew they would not have obeyed me. Even military discipline has its limits.

Could I command the grisly soldier to shoot down the child who reminded him of his Lisa? I reported to headquarters that the town had offered unassailable resistance, although this admission injured my military reputation. But I was right. We had literally been conquered by these simple folk who followed implicitly the leadership of Jesus.”


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