In 1958, Kornelius Isaak and two other followers of Jesus living in Paraguay, set out to make contact with the Moro Indians who had been murdering various outsiders for years. These three felt that making peace would show them the love of Jesus. They had already done so with other tribes successfully.
After a 200 mile ride into the mountains they saw indications of the Moro tribe and so they left gifts for them hanging from sticks in the ground. When they returned later they were surrounded by the Moro. One of the warriors fatally wounded Kornelius with a spear. Kornelius spent his final moments praying for the one who killed him.
The Paraguayan government learned of the incident and sent soldiers into the area with strict orders to shoot any Moro they saw. One of the men who was with Kornelius heard of this and gathered volunteers from the church to head off the soldiers and warn the Moro in time to prevent the disaster. They did. As a consequence, their former enemies became their friends. Today over 300 of the tribe became Christians.
The picture above was taken in 2009, the man you see there is Jonoine Picanerai, he is the warrior who killed Kornelius, and later went on to become the tribal Chief and a Christian. In his hand is the very spear he used to kill Kornelius. This picture was taken during a ceremony of forgiveness in which Helmut Isaak the brother of Kornelius read the following statement.
“Fifty years ago you were a courageous young warrior of your tribe. You defended your territory against the invasion of the white man and you were a hero of your people. Fifty years ago, my brother Kornelius Isaak, another young man fought the peaceful war of the Lamb of God, willing to give his life for his Lord Jesus Christ. Jonoine, you did what you had to do according to your values and tradition and my brother did what he needed to do; at that tragic confrontation, in 1958, Kornelius lost his life. Today we are not enemies, we are brothers in Jesus Christ and warriors together, for the Kingdom of God.”
There are many stories throughout the history of the church like this. Some are considered successes, others catastrophic failures. But there is a common thread found in all these stories. There is one thing they share. A living out of the highest and perhaps hardest teaching of Jesus. The call to love our enemy.
This is not for the faint of heart. It is the most courageous love that says I am willing to die for something, but not willing to kill for it.
This does not mean love has no boundaries, or that we must suffer the abuse of others. Sometimes we will need to assert boundaries as a form of love. But only after we have asked the question “What does it mean to love my enemy?”
For more on this topic and stories like it, listen to the “Thin Ice and the Spear”