Susan C. Anthony

Civil War BattlefieldDoing What's Right

We've been back from our trip for a little over two weeks. We were away for a vacation in the states. It feels good to me to be back in Alaska, and I'm glad to see so much snow here.

This year we took a driving trip to the nation's capital and through Virginia to the sites of many Civil War battles. That must have been a horrific war. We walked around battle sites like Cold Harbor, where 7300 men were killed in just 30 minutes. Other battles, like Gettysburg, were even worse, with almost 42,000 casualties over a three-day period in 1863.

It has been said that one of the terrible things about the Civil War was that the technology of mass killing had moved ahead of the medical science necessary for saving lives.

We attended four different churches on our travels, each a different denomination. We went to Christ Church Episcopal in Alexandria, Virginia, where both George Washington and Robert E. Lee were members. In Minneapolis we attended a Methodist and Lutheran church. We drove around looking for a church in Virginia Beach, and ended up at an all-black Baptist church. Each church was unique, but none had the in-depth teaching we have here. It helped us appreciate our teachers in Alaska.

One thing we do on trips to pass time while we're driving is listen to sermon tapes. I want to share with you today one of the stories that was on one of those tapes. I hadn't heard it before and it made an impression.

Early in the 1900s, a poor Scottish farmer named Fleming was working in the field when he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He quickly dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. "I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life."

"I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. "It was the right thing to do." At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel.

"Is that your son?" the nobleman asked.

"Yes," the farmer said proudly.

"I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we will both be proud of."

Sir Alexander FlemingAnd that he did. Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

Years later, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin. As a matter of fact, my own life was saved by penicillin when I was a child with pneumonia.

So what was the name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.

Sir Winston ChurchillAnd his son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.

There is, of course, a moral to the story. Farmer Fleming did the right thing, not because of any anticipated reward, but because the right thing is the right thing to do. It was an inconvenience but I like to think that most of us in his situation would have done the same. He could never have foreseen the amazing results that would come years later from that one choice and action. Only God knew.

Often in life, the right thing is a lot harder to do, and the rewards may be nonexistent, at least to us. So why should we do the right thing? How do we know what the right thing is? God gives us the answers through His Word and through His Spirit working in our conscience.

We can't see into the future to tell whether any action we take might have far-reaching results. We just have to do what's right every time we have a choice, then trust the results to God. That means telling the truth even when it's easier to lie. It means setting aside our own comfort to help others in need. It means honoring God in our lives and by our actions and choices, every day in big and little ways. By doing what's right, we set ourselves apart from the world, show the effect He's having in our lives, and bring glory to Christ.

Note:  This talk was presented by my husband Dennis at our small church.

Go on to read Tale of Two Pigeons
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