Love your enemies
Love your enemies. – Luke 6:27
At the close of the first day of the battle of Fredericksburg, in the American Civil War, hundreds of the Union wounded were left lying on the ground. All night and most of the next day the field was swept by artillery, and no one could venture to the sufferer’s relief.
Many who heard the poor soldiers’ piteous appeals, felt the pangs of human compassion – but stifled them under dread necessity. But at length one brave fellow behind the stone ramparts where the Southern forces lay, gave way to his sympathy and rose superior to the love of life. He was a sergeant in a South Carolina regiment, and his name was Richard Kirkland. In the afternoon he hurried to General Kershaw’s headquarters and, finding the commanding officer, said to him, excitedly: “General, I can’t stand this any longer!”
“What’s the matter, sergeant?” asked the general.
“Those poor souls out there have been praying and crying all night and all day, and it’s more than I can bear. I ask your permission to go and give them water.”
The general hesitated for a moment—but finally said, with emotion: “Kirkland, it is sending you to your death; but I can oppose nothing to such a motive as yours. For the sake of it, I hope God will protect you. Go!”
Furnished with a supply of water, the brave sergeant immediately stepped over the wall and applied himself to his work of Christ like mercy. Wondering eyes looked on as he knelt by the nearest sufferer and, tenderly raising his head, held the cooling cup to his parched lips. Before his first ministry of love was finished, everyone in the Union lines understood the mission of the noble soldier in gray, and not a man fired a shot.
He stayed there on that terrible field an hour and a half, giving drink to the thirsty and dying, straightening their cramped and mangled limbs, pillowing their heads on their knapsacks, and spreading their army coats and blankets over them—as a mother would cover her own children—and all the while he was so engaged, until his gentle ministry was finished; the fusillade of death was hushed. Hatred forbore its rage—in a tribute of honor, to a deed of pity.
The lesson of love continues, “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.”