The following story is told in Angus Kinnear’s biography of Watchman Nee, Against the Tide:
In another village a newly believing farmer and his friend had faced a crisis. Their strips of rice field lay close to an irrigation stream on the terraced hillsides from which they daily drew water for their paddy. But one night as they slept a neighbor with land beneath them on the slope defrauded them of their essential and laboriously pumped supply by breaching the clay of their retaining bank and running it off on to his own land. Next morning they saw what had happened but, controlling themselves, said nothing. Again they raised their water, and again next night it was all drained off. Still they uttered no word of protest when at dawn they discovered the mean trick the man had played on them. This went on for seven successive days, and they were justly irritated. Were they not Christians, and should not Christians be patient? The Scriptures speak of loving your enemies, rejoicing in sufferings, and counting it pure joy when you meet various trials, and their restraint seemed irreproachable. In desperation they went to some older believers for advice.”It is unjust!” they exclaimed. “how is it that, having suffered all this wrong for a full week and kept faith with God, we are still unhappy? Tell us in this situation what we should rightly do next.”
One of those senior brothers had some experience. First they all knelt together in prayer; then he replied,”If we do the right thing and no more, then surely we are unprofitable servants. We ourselves should go beyond what is merely right. Maybe you are not yet happy because you have not gone the full distance. Let me suggest that you try going the second mile. First yourselves irrigate that farmer’s paddy field, and after that irrigate your own. Go back and test it out, and see whether or not your hearts find rest.”
They agreed to try, and next morning were early afoot. Carrying forth their wooden trough with its “dragon’s backbone” water-lift and going to work once more on its treadmill, they made it their first task to irrigate the field of their enemy who had so persistently robbed their own field of its water. And now this amazing thing happened: the more they labored in the day’s intense heat watering their persecutor’s land, the happier they became. By the time, in late afternoon, they had finished lifting sufficient also for their own paddy field, their hearts were at perfect rest.
When the brothers had repeated this for two or three days the man came with his friends, dumbfounded, to apologize. With every show of sincerity he asked for the explanation. “If this is Christianity,” he said, “then we want to hear more about it,” and soon he too was drinking in the Word of life.
In telling this episode Watchman was distinguishing between the principle of right and wrong and the principle of life.”Those two had been most patient,” he explains. “They had labored to irrigate their paddy, and without a word of complaint had suffered others to steal their water. Was that not very good? They had done all that man could require of them, but God was not yet satisfied. They lacked peace of heart because they had not met the demands of his life. When however they conformed to his standards, joy and peace welled up in their hearts.
“What is the Sermon on the Mount?” he continues. “What does Jesus teach in Matthew chapters 5 to 7? Is it not this, that we dare not be satisfied with less than what meets the demands of the new life God has put within us? It does not teach that provided we do what is right then all is well. No, we overlook the inner life whereby his Holy Spirit moves us to further action. Many say that Matthew 5 to 7 is too difficult. It is beyond us. I admit that it is. It is sheer impossibility. But here’s the point. You have an inner life, a Person close at hand, and in a given situation that new life tells you that unless you do as the Sermon on the Mount requires (and “love” is a key word) you will lack rest. The whole question lies here: are you walking in the way of good and evil, or in the way of life?”
An interesting aspect of this story is that the brothers sought the Lord’s direction together in prayer. Through this time together, it was realized that the life of Christ in them was leading them to do more than just not retaliate; they were being called to serve this person who was hurting them.
Without spending time in prayer, they were stuck looking at the situation through the eyes of the flesh, and were attempting to rely on their own strength to muster patience with the offense against them. But they knew something was not right because they were not “happy”.
The solution presented was truly inspired. It was against human wisdom that would demand justice, and it resolved the situation peaceably to the benefit of both parties, although there was suffering on the part of the Christians to perform extra work in watering two fields.
While this solution may not be directly found in the Scriptures (there are no “water your neighbor’s paddy field” verses), this echoes Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek, walking the second mile, and Paul’s words to the Corinthians who were taking each other to court: “why not rather be wronged?”. So the Spirit-led direction could be confirmed as being in line with the life of Christ.
In the end, this created a testimony to the non-believing neighbor that drew him towards Christ. God saw fit to use their suffering to expand His life to others!
This is a wonderful example of how we who are inhabited by the Spirit of Christ can solve problems… first come before Christ together in prayer, listen for His answer which will follow the pattern of His life, and follow Him. Note that His answers will rarely follow the conventional wisdom of this world.
Follow the Life!
Do you have any similar examples to share? I’d love for you to put them in the comments.
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