Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Honour Guard

There are many interesting stories about the Bab, some of them are epic in their scope. Some others, though, were seemingly trivial. All of them have their lessons.

One such story, a seemingly trivial one, occurred fairly early in His ministry.

It was June, 1845. The Bab had returned to Bushihr from His Pilgrimage, and was contemplating visiting Karbilah, as He told His companions He would. He had sent Quddus to Shiraz to inform His uncle of His Mission, as well as to teach some of the locals there. One of those locals was a Mulla who immediately began obeying the new laws of the Bab. As He had added a line to the traditional Call to Prayer, people got upset, and the governor was moved to stop the spread of unrest, which resulted in guards being sent to arrest the Bab. It is likely that for these reasons the Bab decided to change His plans.

The Bab headed northeast of Bushihr some 65 kilometers to meet these guards. Normally it would take about 2 solid days of riding to cover that distance, and so when the Bab talked to them, His conversation had a significance we don't often consider.

The Bab asked them where they were going, which was odd enough, as they were guards, and were probably used to being avoided whenever possible. But the guard commander thought it best to conceal his mission and told the Bab that they were just sent to the area to look into some matter for the governor.

"The governor has sent you to arrest Me", came the startling reply from the Bab. "Here am I; do with Me as you please."

After a bit of back and forth, the Bab finally said, "I know that you are seeking Me. I prefer to deliver Myself into your hands, rather than subject you and your companions to unnecessary annoyance for My sake."

You can well imagine how this shocked the guards, a wanted man willingly giving himself up to the capricious whims of the governor, who was known to commit great violence in order to keep the peace in his province. To not flee was one thing, but for Him to go out of His way to save them two extra days of travel each way? It is no wonder they treated Him with such deference.

You can also imagine the surprise when these tough and hardened guards came back to Shiraz with the Bab leading them, as though they were His honour guard.

It seems like such a simple story, on the surface, and yet when we pause to think about it a bit more, we can see that there are depths to it.

But how is this relevant to us today?

For me, to see the relevance I have to go back a couple thousand years to the ministry of Jesus.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."

I have written on the cheek striking part before, so I won't repeat it here. But it is this line about compelling someone to go a mile that interests me here. And while I've written about that, too, I'll repeat it here as it bears on this theme.

At the time of Jesus, it was fairly common for the Roman legions to "compel" people to do certain tasks, like carrying their packs for a mile. This was evidently a big issue for the Jewish rebels of the time, as I'm sure it would be for me today. It was, in fact, one of their main complaints about the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, and something they desperately wanted to get overturned. And just as they expected the Messiah to come as a warrior and physically boot the Romans out, they also expected that He would demand the cessation of this law.

Not only did Jesus not stop this practice, He encouraged His followers to go over and above it. If they ask you to walk a mile, walk two for them.

And here, the Bab effectively acts it out. He not only goes out to meet the guards, He goes so far as to save them a few days journeying by meeting them partway on the road back to Shiraz.

And the reaction? They go from merely carrying out the orders of the governor to becoming ardent admirers of the Bab.

When we know that someone is unjustly coming after us, metaphorically speaking, we can go out of our way to meet them on that road. Through this simple effort, we may end up, after all, turning our possible enemies into our greatest well-wishers.

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