The wise old man was napping on our side porch when we got home from church Sunday. “Happy Resurrection Day,” he said, standing to greet us. My wife had prepared ham, potato salad and barbecue beans and the three of us feasted. After lunch, he said, “Well, Dan, I got a little nap before lunch, so I am ready for a walk. Let’s go look at the magnolia tree.” That huge tree, planted in 1839, fascinated him. He walked all around under it, looking up. When he was satisfied, he said, “Would you like to sit on the Royston log house back porch and visit awhile?” Of course, I said yes.
Half reclining with his back against the log wall, he cut a tiny piece from a tobacco plug and placed it in his cheek. “Did y’all have a good church meeting this morning, Dan?” I told him all about it and he listened intently. “You know, Dan, I have been thinking about Easter. You know that passage in Micah 6 that says the Lord requires justice, mercy and humility?” I told him I did remember. “Well, Jesus exemplified each one of those qualities.”
He went on to explain that justice was a reciprocal concept in scripture. He said we should be fair to others if we want fair treatment ourselves. He further said that God’s sense of justice was much different from man’s. As evidence, he cited the crucifixion—satisfying God’s just requirements through an event that seems so unjust to us. “By his death,” he said, “we get life. How is that fair by human standards? Judging someone else guarantees that we will get the same kind of judgment from God.”
The wise old man leaned forward to spit through a crack in the floor and continued. He explained that mercy was reciprocal as well. Jesus said merciful people get mercy in return. He also explained that the scriptures are clear about forgiveness. He said we should forgive others to receive forgiveness ourselves. “Jesus said that just after he taught the Lord’s prayer.”
Finally, he explained that humility gains elevation. I do not remember all the examples he gave, but the one that stuck with me was that the ultimate humility was coming from heavenly mansions to lowly life on this planet to be betrayed, denied and unjustly tortured to death. But, for the joy set before him, he endured it. Seems like he said his joy was in ransoming the likes of us to be with him forever.”
“That will preach,” I said. “Well, Dan, I did not mean to get preachy. I just wanted to let you know I have been thinking about the reciprocal nature of our faith. Open rewards come from secret deeds.”
“Sir,” I said, “where have you been and where are you going. “I do not have much of a plan for my journey from here. I have a girlfriend in Doyline and I may go stay at her lake house for a spell. I have been to Quito and Havana. When I came back up here, I lived under the bridge in Texarkana until this morning. I caught a ride with an Episcopal priest who looked like Vincent Price.”