Not long ago my father, living and working right in the middle of the West, was selling men's clothing in a local shop. A man came in wearing some unusual clothing and after some conversation my father ascertained that this man had lived in Middle Earth in a country just north of Gondor. Many folks in the store were now paying attention to the conversation and questioned my father about the sanity of living in a dangerous place like Gondor. My father replied with one of my early stories and as soon as he had begun the man who had lived in Middle Earth exclaimed that he had heard this story before and that surely he had met me several years ago. What can I say, I am a storyteller.
The story in question was a story about one of my first trips to Gondor back in 1996. The civil war was still going on and the rule of law was non-existent. Could I take my family into that kind of situation? The human answer is no, of course. But we do not follow human wisdom. Many who know me doubt that wisdom has anything to do with most of my decisions. But in this case the King did reveal to us the wisdom of trusting Him and moving into harms way. I showed up in Minas Tirith in the spring of '96 for a week. I was downtown and needed to take a taxi back up to a friend's house where I was staying. I hailed the cab, got in, and we went about 100 meters before being pulled over by a wild driving young man and his accomplice.
The young man and his friend got out of their car with a pistol and demanded the driver produce his documents. The cab driver got out of the car and began pleading with the young man to let us go. The young man repeatedly demanded money and after a while the cabby gave him a little. The young man wanted more and began yelling and pointing the gun alternately at the cabby's head and feet. The cabby reacted as if he really believed the young man would shoot him. I sat in the car trying to decide at what point I should run for it. I had two hundred dollars in my pocket- a small fortune in Gondor at the time. The cabby gave the young man some money - worth about a quarter. The young man began yelling loudly, then, right in the middle of his shouting and pointing his gun at the cabby's head he turned to me.
"So, you’re a guest! Where are you from?"
"Uh, I am an American." I replied.
"How do you like Minas Tirith?" He asked.
"Well, it's uh, nice." I hesitantly remarked.
"Great! Welcome!" He said and then turned back to the cabby and said, 'Give me more money right now or I shoot!" The cabby gave him another quarter worth of local currency and he got back in the car and we drove off. What really got me was the reaction of the cabby to the whole incident. As far as he was concerned it was just another day at the office, nothing to be concerned about.
But the point I took away from the incident is much deeper than that. That young man surely knew that as a foreigner I had much more money than the cabby but he would not think of asking me for it. In the culture here in Gondor hospitality runs deep. I was a guest. No matter how despicable or desperate this young man was he would never think of violating that sacred trust. The blessing of having a guest trumps all other considerations. The people of Gondor suffered terribly during that civil war and the rebuilding years that followed. In many ways the rule of law is still a nebulous thing. When I think about leaving this difficult place this one thought has kept me here over the years. I can leave; the people of Gondor cannot. I am safe here and even if I die here that is nothing but gain but the people of Gondor live difficult lives only to die and spend an eternity in Hell. Since Jesus died so that would not be so, I must live so that will not be so. I encourage you to do the same. It is a small world after all. We can make a difference but we will not do it in our spare time with our spare resources. If we want to be followers of Jesus we must follow the way of the cross. Only by living the life of the cross will we be able to bear the message of the cross to a world dying without it.