-BY TOM ATWATER
Love Calls Out the Identity: The Knife Fight at Our Peace Event
We had been directing the children’s center for 200 at-risk children in a hard-hit sector of Medellín for several years now, and we were sick and tired of seeing the enemy´s plans for the beautiful people of the neighborhood. In response to all of the violence and witchcraft we saw and experienced daily, we decided to host a “Peace Day” celebration with all of the children in our center, as well as with their parents/caregivers. We felt God had given us this strategy in order to invite the Prince of Peace to intervene more fully in this tough neighborhood.
A Violent Fight Breaks Out Between Two Women
We began the celebration in the morning with a parade through the neighborhood. We played instruments and sang, and the children shared their joy and ‘loved on’ their neighbors, while the staff interceded for the neighborhood. We had just finished the parade, and everything was going extremely well as we were preparing to begin the next activity when suddenly I heard a loud shout. I looked up the street and to my horror saw one of the young mothers from our center who was holding her two-year-old in her arms being attacked by a much larger woman whom I did not recognize. This heavy-set woman knocked the other mother and her baby to the ground and began pummeling her with fists of rage.
A Man Joins the Fight
The irony didn’t escape me that as we were there trying to celebrate “Peace Day” in a very violent neighborhood, this situation was anything but peaceful! A few seconds later. a man who was clearly the partner of the smaller woman with the baby, who was now on the ground being kicked and beaten, came running up to the pair. He grabbed the larger woman and yanked her off of his girlfriend. This brought me temporary relief, until to my astonishment he pulled his fist back and started pummeling her until she fell to the ground! Then he began kicking her mercilessly with obvious strength.
Everyone Will Know If the “Gringo” Gets Involved
I knew that the people in this fight were likely either involved in gangs, drug trafficking, or the mafia… all generally powerful people who don’t have a high regard for the value of life. What would happen if I, the white “gringo,” get involved? Everyone would immediately know who I am (it’s hard to hide when you’re 6 inches taller than anybody else, and also the only gringo!). These people could very possibly get revenge on both me and my family for getting involved with their dispute. All of this transpired within seconds, during which time it became quite clear to me that somebody had to do something QUICKLY!
The street was full of people. There were parents, children, teachers, staff, and curious neighbors, and I noticed that nobody – not even the Colombian men who were standing in the street – was going to step in and stop the fight. The next thing I knew, I had sprinted up the street and was crouched down on the ground between the angry man and the woman. I looked at him in the eyes pleadingly, begging for him to stop.
After a half a minute he finally stopped kicking and punching the woman, although he was still obviously very upset. He stood up a bit and stepped back, which allowed me to get to my feet while remaining between him and the woman on the ground. My momentary relief was unfounded, however, as in the process of stepping back, he pulled a knife out from somewhere, and began to lunge toward the lady on the ground!
Speaking Life Into the Man With the Knife
Immediately and without thinking, I put my open hands on his chest to try to prevent him from taking steps closer to the woman on the ground. As I did this, I realized a few things. First, I had completely disarmed myself. Both of my hands were now on his chest, leaving the rest of my body completely vulnerable to his hands and his knife. Second, beneath my hands, I could feel his large, strong, and rippling pectoral muscles, and it dawned on me that this guy didn´t need a knife or weapon to kill me! He could do it with just his bare hands!
It was then that I uttered a very small yet urgent prayer to God. I would love to tell you it was a calm spiritual conversation with my heavenly Father, but it wasn’t. It was one of those one-word prayers (if you can even call it a prayer), and that one word was “HEEEEEELP!” It wasn’t a verbal prayer, and it was unnoticed by anyone except the One who it was directed to.
In the meantime, this man was continuing to threaten the woman on the ground with his knife. My flesh desired to tell this guy that he was acting like an idiot, and that he was insane for trying to kill a woman who at the moment couldn’t even defend herself against such a huge man. However, God had heard my one-word prayer, and He moved swiftly and decisively. Instead of telling the guy that he was acting like an idiot (which wouldn´t have helped anything and would have possibly gotten both me and the woman killed), what came out of my mouth was, “You are a strong and valiant man! You are honorable and respectable. PLEASE don’t do this! Yes, this woman disrespected you. She did you wrong, but please don’t do this. You are strong and valiant. You are honorable and worthy of respect! THIS IS NOT WHO YOU ARE!”
The Woman Now Wants to Kill the Man
As I said these words, I looked into his eyes. I looked past all of the rage and anger, and I did see these qualities. I was fully convinced that they were true, and that these qualities were hidden deep inside, beyond what we see with our natural eyes. After I said these words, to my astonishment the man stopped beating the woman! He calmed down a bit, backed away slowly, and put the knife in his pocket. The fight was not yet over, however. Seeing the man´s retreat, the woman on the ground had quickly gotten up and was lunging toward him with rage in her eyes. She was screaming, “You were attacking me with a knife? I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!”
My thought was, “Seriously, woman? This is unreal! I just saved your life! This man could take us both down easily. You’ve got to be nuts!” However, Heaven once again intervened and I found myself putting my arms around her in a gentle yet firm hug, in a way that covered her eyes so that she could not see the other man. Despite what I was thinking, out of my mouth came the words, “You are such an honorable princess! You are worthy of respect. I know he disrespected you, but you are so full of honor and respect. Please don’t do this!” I looked straight into her eyes and saw that she was scared. I reassured her, “Come on, it’s okay…it’s time to get out of here. Let’s go.” By this time, the man had finally left, and the woman eventually calmed down and went home.
Still not quite understanding what had just happened, I thanked Heavenly Father for His protection, and for being so gracious and merciful to me by giving the right words. The worst thing that had happened to me was that the crisp new white guayabera shirt that Jen had given me as a gift to wear for the Peace Day event was now torn and bloody. That was a small price to pay, however, for the life that was saved that day.
The Next Day Started Out Quietly
The following day started out quietly and uneventfully. There were no crowds of people, no knives, no violence. I was just sitting calmly in my office doing paperwork when two of my staff members rushed into my office, saying, “Remember the guy with the knife yesterday? Well, he’s at the door…and he’s looking for you!”
‘Here we go again!’ I thought. “Help again, please!” I begged God, before walking out of my office and looking down the hallway to where he was waiting. As soon as I saw the man, I walked quickly toward the door, opened my arms, smiled wide, and gave him a big hug. I asked him, “How are you doing?”
As I was hugging him, he turned to his wife and I heard him say, “See? He likes me!” Then he asked, “Do you remember me from yesterday? I was the guy with the knife.”
“Of course I remember! How could I forget?” I responded jokingly.
The Man Shares How My Words Had Called Out His True Identity
Then he asked me a question which revealed the purpose of his visit. He asked, “Do you remember what you said to me yesterday?” I nodded, and he continued. “You said that I was strong, honorable, and valiant, and I believed you. Your words caused me to remember who I really am on the inside.” He continued to explain that my calling out the identity in him had caused him to change his actions. All of this had happened in mere seconds, much to both his and my surprise.
Imagine how powerful our words can be when connected with Heaven’s call on our lives. In this situation, God showed up immediately, and I was able to see and verbalize what was hidden in this man. When he heard my words, they resonated within him. The destiny and treasure of his true identity were there, but they just needed to be called out.
Jesus shows us how to look for Jesus in others in Matthew 25:35-40. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
How Can We Find a Trace of God in Every Person We Meet?
In this passage, Jesus is teaching us that we can find Him in every person we meet, even if they are not Christian or don’t believe what we believe. How is that possible? We know there are plenty of people in the world who do very bad things. How can we possibly find a trace of Jesus in those people?
In Genesis 1:27 we find part of the answer. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” From the beginning, God gave humankind the choice and liberty to either follow His ways or not. He put two trees in the garden of Eden, and forbade Adam and Eve to eat from one of them. He could have just decided to not put the tree there, but He honored His son and daughter with the free will to choose. They made a bad decision, and God the Father put into motion His loving plan to save them from their folly.
This “image of God” spoken of in Matthew is somehow a piece or representation of God in every person. However, this doesn’t mean that every person does a good job of carrying the image of God. Many people live their lives very differently than God desires, and some even actively curse God as they carry out horrendous acts of evil and violence.
Many People Made in God’s Image Are Full of Demons
In addition, many people who were made in the image and likeness of God are actually full of demons! As we encounter the homeless drug addicts in the streets, the first thing we typically will notice is the demonic oppression and all of the enemy’s manifestations. The demons will cause these people to growl, become angry, threaten us, speak in demonic languages and voices, etc.
When we first look into their eyes, we see all of the darkness and oppression that have surrounded and filled them for so long. However, we are not satisfied with seeing what the enemy has done to these precious people. We must look past all of the offense, the fear, and the attacks. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by what the enemy is doing. Instead, we must remain confident that a piece of God is in there somewhere, that the King of Kings has put a hidden treasure inside every person on Earth.
We must be confident that the lover of our souls is also the lover of their souls. Beauty has been placed inside of them, and it is up to us, the sons and daughters of the King of Kings, to draw that beauty out. We must dig for it until we find it, calling out the true Godly identity and bringing it to the surface. Once we call it out, this new Heavenly identity can displace the counterfeit identity that the enemy has tried so hard to impose on these beautiful people.
Looking Past the Enemy’s Plans
When the man pulled the knife out during that fight, the Spirit of God enabled me to look past the rage in his eyes, and past the fear for my own life. I saw past the foolishness of a grown man attacking a woman, and was able to see the treasure buried deep inside. Once I could see the image of God hidden in this man, I was able to call out his true identity, which was that of a strong, honorable, and valiant man. I was able to see what Jesus saw in him, the part of God that had been placed within this man when he was created in his mother’s womb. After I called it out, he too could see it. That’s when everything changed and Heaven intervened in a miraculous way.
In 1 Samuel 16:7b, God tells His prophet Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” In order to release Heaven in the people and situations around us, we must agree with the designs, plans, and purposes of Heaven. We must begin seeing others the way God sees them, and we must ask the great Giver of Gifts for the spiritual insight and strength to do so. Proverbs 20:5 encourages us, saying, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” It is by remaining connected to the Vine that we are able to call the true identity out of our fellow human beings!