A rich man named Proculus had hundreds of slaves. The slave named Paulus was so trustworthy that Proculus made him the steward over his whole household. One day Proculus took Paulus with him to the slave market to buy some new workers. Before the bargaining began, they examined the men to see if they were strong and healthy.
Among the slaves stood a weak, old man. Paulus urged his owner to buy this slave.
Proculus answered, “But he is good for nothing.”
“Go ahead, buy him,” Paulus insisted. “He is cheap. And I promise that the work in your household will get done even better than before.”
So Proculus agreed and purchased the elderly slave. And Paulus made good on his word. The work went better than ever. But Proculus observed that Paulus now worked for two men. The old slave did no work at all, while Paulus tended to him, gave him the best food, and made him rest.
Proculus was curious, so he confronted Paulus, “Who is this slave? You know I value you. I don’t mind your protecting this old man. But tell me who he is. Is he your father who has fallen into slavery?”
Paulus answered, “It is someone to whom I owe more than to my father.”
“Your teacher, then?”
“No. Somebody to whom I owe even more.”
“This is my enemy.”
“Yes. He is the man who killed my father and sold us, the children, as slaves.” Proculus stood speechless. “As for me,” said Paulus, “I am a disciple of Christ, who has taught us to love our enemies and to reward evil with good.” (http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2003/january/14119.html)
Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.”
There is a lot we think we know about St. Patrick, but there is actually very little, except for bits of his writings. From that we know that when he was in his mid-teens, hew was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave and tended the sheep. Six years later he was able to escape and returned to his home. Later, he wrote that during the night he heard “the voices of those who dwelt beside the forest of Focult (in Ireland) which is near the western sea, and they cried, as if with one mouth: ‘Holy youth, we beseech you to come and walk among us once more.’” Patrick understood these words to be a call to go and preach the Gospel to the Irish – to those who had kidnapped him – to his enemies. He would live out the remainder of his days among those people and converted many to Christianity. When the Roman Catholic Church was able to reassert itself into that region of the world, they found a faithful Irish Church that they didn’t even know existed.
How could he bring himself to return to those who treated him so poorly? Why would he do such a thing? It would seem that his thoughts were the same as Paulus, “I am a disciple of Christ, who has taught us to love our enemies and to reward evil with good.”
How do you respond to your enemies, those who treated you poorly? You are a disciple of Christ. Love them. Reward evil with good.