I have recently been reflecting on what it means to follow Jesus’ commandments about loving our enemies and not resisting evil. This poem, written by an unknown author, expresses one component of what it means to follow Jesus in that area of life.
The Unbarred Door
When on America’s eastern plain
Still roamed her forest child,
And the new homes of Europe’s sons
Were rising in the wild.
Upon a clearing in a wood
Amos had built his cot;
He tilled his little farm
And lived contented with his lot.
A just, peace-loving man was he,
Kind unto all and true,
And well his ever-open door,
The wandering Indian knew.
But often were the settler’s lands.
By force or fraud obtained
And to the Red man dispossessed,
Revenge alone remained.
And ’round the blazing fire of logs
When winter nights were cold,
To shuddering listeners, dreadful tales
Of Indian raids were told.
But Amos feared not, though his home
All undefended lay,
And still his never-bolted door
Was open night and day.
One morn a neighbor passed in haste;
“Indians, they say, are nigh,
So Amos, bolt your door tonight
And keep your powder dry.”
“My friend,” said he, the God I serve
Commands me not to kill,
And sooner would I yield my life
Than disobey his will.
“One gun I have, but used alone
Against the wolf or bear,
To point it at my fellow-man,
My hand would never dare.
“But I shall put the thing away.
They shall not see it here.
For the old gun in hands unskilled,
Might do some harm, I fear.
“Besides, the Indians are my friends
They would not do me ill,
Here they have found an open door
And they shall find it still.”
“Well,” said the neighbor, as he went,
“My faith is not so clear.
If wretches come to take my life,
I mean to sell it dear.”
But the good wife of Amos stood,
And listened with affright.
“Unless,” she said, “that door is fast,
I shall not sleep tonight.”
And with her words as women can
She urged her husband sore,
Till for the sake of household peace,
At last he barred the door.
They went to rest, and soon the wife
Was wrapped in slumbers deep;
But Amos turned and tossed about,
And vainly tried to sleep.
Then came a voice within his heart,
A mild rebuke it bore.
It whispered, “Thou of little faith
Why hast thou barred thy door?”
‘Weak is that poor defense of thine,
Against a hostile band;
Stronger that strongest fortresses,
The shadow of my hand.”
“Hast thou not said, these many times?
That I have power to save,
As when my servants trembling feet,
Were sinking ‘neath the wave?”
“Now let thy actions with thy words
In full accord agree;
Rise quickly and unbar thy door
And trust alone in Me.”
Then Amos from his bed arose.
And softly trod the floor;
Crept down the stairs and noiselessly
Unbarred the cottage door.
Then forth he looked into the night;
Starlight it was, and still
And slowly rose the waning moon.
Behind the tree-ringed hill.
He looked with trustful, reverent gaze
Up to the starry sky,
As meets a child with loving glance,
A tender father’s eye.
The cloud was lifted from his brow,
His doubts were over now,
The cool air breathed a kiss of peace
Upon his tranquil brow.
Then back to his forsaken bed
He slowly groped his way,
And slept the slumber of the just,
Until the dawn of day.
That night a painted warrior band
Through the dark forest sped,
With steps as light upon the leaves
As panthers’ stealthy tread.
They reached the farm; “we make no war,
With good and faithful men,”
The foremost Indian turned and said,
“Here dwells a son of Penn.”
“But brother, if still his heart is right.
How shall we surely know?”
Answered another; “Time brings change.
And oft turns friend to foe.”
Said the first one, “I will go
And gently try the door;
If open still it proves
His heart is as it was before.”
It yielded and they entered in.
Across the room they stepped,
And came where Amos and his wife.
Calm and unconscious slept.
With tomahawk and scalping knife.
They stood beside the pair.
A solemn stillness filled the room;
An angel guard was there.
The eye sought eye and seemed to say.
How sound the good man
So may they rest, and fear no ill,
Whom the Great Spirit keeps.
Then noiselessly they left the room
And dosed the door behind,
And on their deadly war trail passed.
Some other prey to find.
And horror shrieked around their steps.
And bloodshed marked their way,
And many homes were desolate.
When rose another day.
But Amos with a thankful heart
Greeted the morning light,
And knew not until after years
How near was death that night.