Sattler Talks: Lecture Series Number Two
Many people talk of wanting peace, but few have practiced Jesus’ radical peace teaching as fully as Pablo Yoder of Nicaragua. Robbed at gunpoint dozens of times, he has often seen his wife and family dangerously mistreated. But in every instance he refused to offer any resistance but love.
On March 28, Mr. Yoder spoke on “Living Out Jesus’ Peaceful Revolution” to an evening gathering of Sattler students and interested visitors. This was the second of the ongoing “Sattler Talks,” a series of lectures by leaders from around the world who are making a difference in our generation.
Watch the video or read a summary of his talk below.
Mr. Yoder built his message from Matthew 5:38-44, where Jesus commands, “Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Yoder explained that Jesus’ words, “Resist not evil,” led to the term and concept “nonresistance.” He further remarked that “we resist evil, but we don’t resist the evil person because we’re interested in reaching him,” and that “many people say this is impossible—and it is—but it is not impossible when we have Christ in our heart.”
The essence of nonresistance, Mr. Yoder said, is to love your enemies. Love is not just an emotion, but rather “it is a decision to seek the welfare of the other person regardless of what he does and regardless of how he is.”
The commandment to love our enemies is only one of over six hundred commandments in the New Testament. However, Mr. Yoder prefers to call them “ingredients,” likening these instructions to the things needed to make a good loaf of bread. “When we practice these things, it makes sense,” Mr. Yoder said. “Our lives work out better. God’s commandments are the ingredients of a good healthy Christian life.” If we take “love your enemies” out of the Bible, we miss an important ingredient of the life God wants to give us.
Mr. Yoder also taught from Romans 12:14-21, which states: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
“It works,” Mr. Yoder asserted. His neighbors in Waslala who tried to defend themselves from the robberies are now dead, but Pablo and his family lived through it and emerged stronger in their faith. “If it weren’t for nonresistance, I would not be here today.”
Mr. Yoder explained that the Prince of Peace had something beautiful in mind when he taught nonresistance. It is contrary to human nature to turn around and bless the person who is cursing you. In fact, it is one of the most difficult things God asks of us. Why would He do such a strange thing?
Mr. Yoder answered this through an analogy. The impact of God’s love on a human heart is like a pebble dropped into a pond. First the splash sends one ring from the pebble, then another and another until ripples have moved out to the edge of the pond. In Mr. Yoder’s words, “When the love of God meets the heart of a sinner, what a beautiful splash.”
While Jesus appreciates the love of his people, he also cares about his lost children out there on the edge of the pond and longs for the love He has birthed in our hearts to ripple outward to them. “Do you know He loves them just as much as He does you?” Mr. Yoder asked. “That’s a startling thought.”
When we are harassed and hurt by others, instead of considering our experience a negative one, we should consider it a “golden opportunity” to show one of these lost children how much God loves them. And these golden opportunities are good not just for our enemies; we should use them wherever we are, whether it’s with a fellow college student or with our parents and siblings at home.
God showed Pablo and his family in remarkable ways how valuable their nonresistant responses were for growing His kingdom. Initially, Pablo kept a record in his notebook of every time they were robbed. When they reached 25 robberies, his son pointed out that the number exactly matched the number of members in their small Waslala congregation. Later, when the number of robberies reached 40, they realized there were a corresponding 40 members in the church. To Pablo and his family, this was God’s confirmation that their love to the robbers had born spiritual fruit.
After all, how much is a soul worth? “More than the whole world,” Mr. Yoder said, quoting Jesus. “More than the city of Boston, more than all the skyscrapers.”
Jesus taught us not only in word, but also by example to love our enemies. Mr. Yoder told of a health crisis he experienced that made him realize in a new way how much Christ suffered for us. During this health crisis, his pain increased to the point that he was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Every day his loved ones asked him to rate his pain; sometimes he would give it a two, sometimes a three or four. But one day, lying alone and unable to get anyone’s attention, his pain level rose to what he classed as a five, then a six, seven, and all the way to eight. “It was the worst pain I ever lived.”
Lying there, helpless and in intense pain, “The Lord gave me a gift—I remembered Jesus’ pain on the cross.” There in his hospital bed, Pablo started weeping. “I think you did a ten on that cross,” he told Jesus.
Why did Jesus undergo such unimaginable pain? “I think he did a ten because he loved me,” Mr. Yoder said. In the midst of his own pain, he thanked Jesus for suffering on the cross, feeling honored to participate in Christ’s suffering.
“Imagine Jesus on the cross doing a ten,” Mr. Yoder said, “and he’s saying, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Like Jesus, Mr. Yoder also experienced what it feels to have someone spit in your face in derision. “I can still feel spittle running down my face,” he said.
Yet, in spite of mockery and excruciating pain, Jesus was not concerned primarily about himself. Even from the cross, he cared for his mother. “Mama, here’s your son,” he told Mary, and to John, “Son, here’s your mama.” His love was so big it controlled his desire to scream and writhe in pain. His love in the face of pain and mockery convinced one of the thieves crucified beside him that this man was not only innocent, he was divine.
“To be able to be agents of his love is such a beautiful thing,” Mr. Yoder said. Sometimes the hurt comes not from enemies, but from fellow Christians—like the man who unjustly slandered Pablo’s character in a conservative Christian periodical. “I felt a strong desire to get a letter to him and tell him his sin was worse than mine,” Mr. Yoder said. But in the end, “I released him, let him go, and I’m praying for him.”
Those who do not accept nonresistance, Mr. Yoder said, pose “some pretty tough questions,” such as, “What if a man comes to your house to rape your wife or rape your daughters? Will you be nonresistant then?”
Mr. Yoder doesn’t speculate on these issues since he has experienced the answer. During the worst night he can remember, robbers had him and his son hogtied on the floor for hours and threatened to rape his fifteen-year-old daughters. Although the mission had a policy never to give ransom money, Pablo was able to negotiate with the robbers from his own personal assets, offering to borrow enough money to satisfy them and leave his daughters unharmed. But through all that, “Never once did it pass my mind to use violence against them. All I could do was negotiate.”
Once, when Pablo had gone to another house to get some money during a robbery, one of the robbers molested his wife. She cried out, “Lord, cover me with your blood,” and he backed off. When she got up and left the room, she turned back and said, “God bless you.”
“Just think of that memory haunting his mind and heart,” Mr. Yoder said.“I’ve done the worst thing a man can do to a woman, and she turns around and says God bless you.”
In spite of all that, “Not once did we think of violence.”
He and his family not only loved robbers by refusing to return their violence, they often gave them food and gifts, visited them in prison, cried for them, and prayed for them. Once Pablo offered a robber a hug—a robber so wicked he had made a pact with Satan and burned his own stepfather alive—and that robber accepted his hug. “When I hugged him, I loved him,” Mr. Yoder said. “It was a hug from Jesus.”
Mr. Yoder shared many more experiences of personal on-the-ground love in the worst kind of situations. This blog can in no way do justice to the power and passion of his storytelling—so for a fuller picture, watch the video included in this post. You will find it well worth your time.
He ended his talk by challenging his audience to ask themselves if they loved Jesus. Had that pebble come and smashed into their hearts? Was Jesus’ love rippling outward from them to others?
“God’s love is not to keep to myself,” Mr. Yoder said. “That love is to share.”
Pablo Yoder grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and moved to Costa Rica as a child. After marriage, Pablo and his wife Euni were blessed with six children and moved to plant a church in Waslala, Nicaragua. Between 1995 and 2000, the Yoders experienced over 40 robberies. Pablo wrote about some of these experiences in Angels in the Night and Angels over Waslala. Other works include The Long Road Home, The Work of Thy Fingers, My Father’s World, and The Death of a Saloon.