This past week a friend reminded me of a story the late New Testament scholar and well-known preacher Fred Craddock told about being with an American general in South Korea:
“Years ago I received a letter from Washington asking if I would join hundreds of other ministers in holding prayer breakfasts around the world. Wherever there were American citizens or soldiers, there were going to be President’s Prayer Breakfasts. I wrote back and said I would be honored to do it. I waited a while, and then I got a letter saying that my station for the prayer breakfast would be in Seoul, Korea. I said, “Wonderful, I’ll just stop by there on the way to the office and have a prayer breakfast!”
“I went to Seoul, where I was the guest of General Richard Stilwell, who commanded 40,000-to-50,000 American soldiers in South Korea. [A veteran of the Normandy invasion, Stilwell’s major awards included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and numerous foreign decorations. He went on to serve as the head of Pentagon Intelligence during President Reagan’s administration and then as the CIA’s contact in the Defense Department.]
“The officers and troops had gathered in great numbers. Before I spoke, a private who’d been brought over from Formosa played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. It was moving and beautiful. General Stilwell said, “I love that song.”
“When the breakfast was over and everybody was leaving, General Stilwell turned to me and said, “I want you to pray for us.” I said, “I will.” He said, “I don’t mean for power. We have the power. In one afternoon we could wipe out North Korea. We have the power. What we need you to pray for is that we have the restraint.”
“That we have the restraint?” I asked. “Yes,” the general said, “the restraint. The mark of a civilized society is not power. It is restraint.”
Another word for that is self-control. Scripture says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Let’s pray that those with great power set aside their pride and threats and instead exhibit restraint.
Grace & Peace,