One of my most startling memories of seeing hatred manifest itself into violence was while I was traveling to Russia during a very cold winter in the early-nineties. A colleague and I were visiting a local outdoor market in a large town. There were all kinds of vendors selling food and clothing. It was cold, cloudy and bleak. I was looking for a Russian hat called an ushanka, a warm hat that covers the ears and is turned up in front. As I was busy trying various hats and haggling over the price, off in the corner of my right eye, I noticed a rough looking man and a young attractive girl arguing.
Before I could even turn I saw this big burly man with a brown winter coat and black Russian hat, reach for the woman’s throat. It was violent and deeply disturbing; I had never seen anything like it before. Seared in my mind is seeing the anger in this man’s face and his powerful hand reaching out to grab the girls throat.
A couple of people started to shout but most people carried on with their business. I was momentarily frozen and couldn’t figure out if the man was just fooling around or if this was real. “Should I get involved or stay back?” I asked myself.
I started to move toward them, when a person who obviously knew the man intervened and broke the man’s grip on the woman. The young woman fell backward. Her purple face now turning pale white as blood rushed back into her head. She was stunned, unable to cry because of the shock and obvious fear of her attacker.
The incident was over as quickly as it began, but the impression on me has lasted for decades and has changed my life.
Afterward as I thought about the incident, I became increasingly disappointed with my slow reaction to the violence I was witnessing. Yes, I was young and had never been exposed to such violence before. But I thought my reaction was far too slow and that woman could have gotten seriously hurt if not for others who stepped in to help.
So, I made a commitment to myself that day that in the future I would react as fast as possible to any kind of violence I might witness. Obviously wisdom has to be employed in all such cases, but I don’t want to be someone standing on the sidelines watching evil overcome good because I was afraid or unsure.
I want to be available…to be an agent for good, both physically and spiritually.
Romans Chapter 12 says “Overcome evil by doing good”. In order to fulfill this scripture we have to be willing to take action. I don’t believe God is requiring us to become super heroes and physically save everyone in need. But I think each of us, using our own gifts and talents can play a part in helping people who are victims of violence, hatred and evil.
How about you? Have you had a brush with evil? What part do you play in keeping evil restrained?