Dream Word – GOODNESS
Romans 15:1-4 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." NKJV
Praying For Pagan Neighbours
As I write tonight’s 'Whisper', I am living in a beautiful terraced house. Bounded by the road at the front, on the left and right and rear, we are surrounded by our neighbours. It is surprisingly quiet considering the fact that we live on the same old anthill! I breakfasted out in the garden this morning and the quiet of the day was broken by a very intrusive builder, his radio blaring and his small dog, yapping like David Coleman, after yet another Scottish soccer defeat against England. You could see the curtains twitching, feel the annoyance rising and almost hear the tut, tut, tutting coming from behind the slam-shut windows. It reminded me that there is something intensely practical about being a good neighbour, and in the heat of the rising annoyance, I reminded myself that rarely would a man die for a neighbour, but on many an occasion you might like to kill them!
St. Alban is the first British Christian martyr ever recorded and frankly, it was being a good neighbour that led to his death. The story goes that sometime in the Third Century when England was under the iron studs of Rome, Christians were then being persecuted by the empire and a priest who was maybe called ‘Amphibolus’ fleeing persecution, passed through the Roman town of Verulamium, where a pagan citizen of Rome, a former Roman soldier called Alban, took him into his own home and hid him from his pursuing persecutors. A good non-Christian neighbour, who could not abide the injustice of such vicious persecution of Christians. Moved by the piety and reality of Amphibolus, Alban himself, in the story, then becomes both Amphilobus's convert and disciple.
Later of course, as in all good stories, the wicked Roman Governor becomes aware of the presence of the fugitive priest and so sends the local guard to arrest him. Alban here turns hero, in that he exchanges his ‘free man’ cloak with the priestly cloak of Amphibolous, thus allowing the priest to escape out of the city whilst Alban offers himself to the authorities, thus taking his place. Of course, in good Medieval money-making fashion, the story is further embellished with miraculous happenings and further sacrifice, as Alban’s first executioner refuses to perform the act of decapitating Alban and instead becomes a Christian, whilst the second executioner who finally removed Alban's head, literally has his eyes drop out after the act is performed! I tell you, in mad, Medieval England, even I’d pay money to hear that story and see the bony relics!
There are of course two miracles here. The first is the miracle of the good pagan neighbour. Some of you wish right now, here in the present, you had some good pagan neighbours, I just know you do! I am also sure that in the future, there may also be a need for Christians to still have some good pagan neighbours, who might just be willing to protect them from the terror of persecution. Yes, it is coming, be sure of that. Alban my friends, was a pagan miracle of the God he did not yet know! Think about that.
The second miracle is that Alban was rewarded in two ways. Firstly, by benefitting from the heat of the fire which he had brought to the hearth and heart of his house, in other words, he heard the Gospel! And secondly, that through the thankful prayers of Amphibolous, his insightful instruction, and shining example, Alban himself is finally convicted and converted to become a ‘count the cost’ Christian!
It’s time me thinks, to pray for both our present and our future neighbours, for they too need to become 'count the cost' Christians. Oh and by the way, are you?
Listen: - By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 NKJV
Pray:- Lord, do good to us through our neighbours and do good to them through us. In Jesus name we pray, amen.