During the summer of 1778, a British battleship dropped anchor in the harbor of Nantucket Island, off the New England coast. William Rotch, a leader of the Quaker community on the island, knew that the ship’s purpose was to plunder the town.

With the consent of his fellow citizens, Rotch formed a one-man welcoming committee, and greeted Sir Conway-Etherege, the British commander, at the pier. He invited Conway-Etherege home to dinner.

After a pleasant meal, the commander decided to get on with his business. “We’re here to plunder,” he told Rotch. “As you can see, your little hamlet is completely at our mercy. Where shall we start?”

“I don’t know of a better place than here at my house,” said Rotch. “I’m better able to bear the loss than anyone else. We have some silver plate, some good, serviceable blankets, and food supplies in the cellar.”

Conway-Etherege didn’t know what to do. He had never come across this response before! “Tell me,” he said, “are there any more men like you on Nantucket?”

“Oh, yes, many better men,” said Rotch.

“Well, I want to meet them,” Conway-Etherege answered.

So Rotch took him around to meet a shopkeeper who had given 400 barrels of flour to the poor the winter before, and another one who had given away blankets and shoes.

“Would you like to meet more of our people?” asked Rotch.

“Oh, no,” replied Conway-Etherege. “I can hardly believe there are three such men as you in the world. A whole street full of them would be too much.

So Conway-Etherege went back to this ship, and Nantucket was saved.

Sometimes the best way to victory over evil is through vulnerability and risk of loss.


An old man in India once sat down in the shade of an ancient banyan tree. Its roots stretched far into the swamp. After a while he saw a little disturbance where the roots entered the water. When he looked more closely, he realized that a scorpion had become helplessly entangled in the roots. Pulling himself to his feet, the man made his way carefully along the tops of the roots until he came to the place where the scorpion was trapped. He reached down to pick it up. But each time he touched the scorpion, it would lash his hand with its tail and sting the man. Finally his hand was so swollen he could no longer close his fingers, so he withdrew to the shade of the tree to wait for the swelling to go down. As he arrived at the trunk, he saw a young man standing above him on the road laughing at him. “You’re a fool,” said the young man, “wasting your time trying to help a scorpion. Don’t you know it will just keep stinging you?” The old man replied: “Simply because it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting, should I give up my nature, which is to save?”

It’s God’s nature to save. Even if it costs him pain. Even if his own Son must be humiliated, judged unfairly, tortured, put to death on a cruel cross. He will not take his hand away.

When God reaches down for you and me, do we sting and hurt him or do we gratefully accept his offer of deliverance and freedom? What will be our answer this Holy Week?

© 2008 by Tom Cheatham