Wednesday, May 3, 2017

“The 51 Mile Journey”
The journey between the Pennsylvanian towns of Ephrata and Valley Forge is a distance of 51 miles. By today’s standards, this is a trip of less than an hour’s drive. For Peter Miller of Ephrata, it would take a little longer since he would walk the distance. It was a journey he didn’t have to take, and no one would blame him for not going, but as he set out on foot that day in the year 1775, it was a journey he felt compelled to take.
          The story begins much earlier when Miller was the pastor for the Reformed Church in Goshenhoppen, Germantown. Peter had begun to rebel against the ways of the Reformed Church to the point that he was relieved as minister and a man named Michael Wideman replaced Miller as the new pastor. Wideman hated Miller. History says that he would spit in his face, trip him along the road and even supposedly at one time, punched the quiet, humble man of God.
          Unlike Miller, Wideman was not a strong patriot to the colonial cause. Neither was he overly fond of the British. He ran a tavern on the side and during a time when British General Howe’s troops were bedding there, they overheard some unkindly remarks about the General. The British soldiers tried to seize him, but he was able to escape through a window. He later sent word that he’d like to speak to Howe with the intention to apologize, even offering every service against the colonies he could think of to the British. Howe accepted his request to meet, but when he found out, he had made certain unkindly remarks, threw him out of the British camp.
          Shortly after that, Wideman was arrested by some of General George Washington’s men and brought to the general. He was court-martialed, convicted of treason and his property seized. There was no one willing to stand up for the man who had attempted to betray his country.
          Peter Miller had walked the 51 miles to see his friend George Washington concerning the fate of Wideman. Miller pleaded on Wideman’s behalf. Washington was unimpressed with his friends plea, feeling that Miller was only trying to spare the life of his friend, Wideman. Contrarily, Washington found out that Wideman was not a friend, but Miller’s “worst enemy,” one who had treated him with continual disrespect. Miller, however, had asked himself what Jesus would have done in this case. As a result of wrestling with this question he had walked the 51 miles to stand up for his “worst enemy.”
          Washington was impressed with what Miller had done and pardoned Wideman. The two men who had been enemies returned on the road back to Ephrata, not as enemies, but as friends. Many believe that  Washington, moved by Peter Miller’s actions, many times in the future showed the same grace in pardoning others.
          How far would we walk to save our worst enemy? How far would we walk to show mercy and forgiveness to someone who is undeserving? I venture to say that most of the time we sit back and just see what happens and not interfere. If we looked closely how much of Peter Miller would see in ourselves?
          Reconciliation with those we have been crossways with is one of the hardest Christian qualities to achieve. Sometimes our pride steps in the way of reaching out. Other times it’s our lack of desire to take that first step to bring us back together. Sometimes instead of standing up, we may find ourselves step back and watch as “our enemy” receives what we feel is his or her due and just reward for how they treated us and others.
          People will look at us as leaders to see how we handle all types of situations. How will we handle it when someone is against us? Will we get angry? Will we ridicule them? Will we treat them with disrespect? Where will our feet lead us on this journey of reconciliation?
          A friend once made the statement several years ago, “People are watching our feet!”. In other words, they want to see where we are going, how we are living, what journey are we traveling to be like Jesus? They are watching our feet, looking for footsteps to follow.
          Maybe this one act by Peter Miller, a man who journeyed to meet Washington and free his enemy had an impact on things he said later. Washington the following year makes the following statement:
Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands.
— George Washington, 1776
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All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 

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