I believed him. I had no reason not to but it didn’t square with any experience I ever had then or now. I rarely remember the story, even less think about it and I’m not sure I should write about it.
I was living in Adelaide – going to the seminary – visiting friends. When the topic somehow got onto angels. He said that he thinks he’s been near one but he never saw it. He was being harassed – stalked – phone calls, slow drive bys, standing opposite the house just staring – because he’d been a Christian in the workplace and in this case a whistle-blower (I think). The messages were clear that retribution was coming ‘you —- Christian’. Things intensified; stress grew. Prayer seemed ineffectual. Now it was damage to the house; little could be done. Finally the ‘showdown’ – the person was on the front doorstep. Wife and children were hiding at the back – ready to ring for help if needed. Scared, shaking, he opened the door and as the abuse started he said, ‘In the name of Jesus, leave’. The belligerence stopped in mid sentence, eyes widened, the attacker turned and fled. He turned to see what was behind him. Nothing.
Everything stopped. No problems at work. No phone calls. No stalking. Silence. Months went by. Finally a phone call; no abuse. ‘Can you help me?’ ‘How?’ ‘Can you get him to leave me alone?’ ‘Who?’ ‘Your friend; the one who came out of your house.’ ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ Eventually they did meet; the attacker seemed the attacked. A big man – as tall as the door frame had emerged and effectively scared him away. The problem was that whenever the stalker wanted to stalk, the big man was outside the house. When he wanted to abuse over the phone or write letters or incite others, he just had to look around and somewhere there would be the big man; just there, somehow. ‘Please get him off me!’ he pleaded.
They talked and my friend spoke more about the Jesus he knew than the big man that he didn’t know. In time there was reconciliation and even both men going to church. ‘So yes, I think he was an angel, but I never saw him.’
I like the story. I truly am pleased that there was an end to the persecution – a happy ending; reconciliation – and the account has similarities, I think, with Elisha asking God to open his servant’s eyes to see the hidden help (2 Kings 6:15-17). Angels are part of the biblical world so they’re part of mine.
The story makes me uneasy. Not because I doubt its veracity – and I don’t think I’m jealous to have my own angel story (I don’t want hassle) – but because countless persecuted Christians, it seems to me, don’t have a big man to bring an end to their suffering so they can spend time with their families.
What to do? Return to God’s Word. I don’t have control over angels; they are not my servants but messengers of God who sends them to his will. In Old and New Testaments angels are found; they even came to Jesus in the desert and one helped him in the garden but none of them turned up scared away the crucifixion detail. Their tasks – when they act and when they don’t act – hint at who God is. My God is the one who turned his back on the man on the cross. My God is the one hanging on the cross, forsaken. My God is the one who has reconciled me to himself; forgiven me. In fact when I think about or pray to or read or recall God, I don’t think of angels at all – no messengers or intermediaries; levels of hierarchy or red tape of bureaucracy – but just the Triune God himself. And yet there are countless heavenly creatures in existence and one day I will see them but for now hidden they, somehow, help me worship. I sing their songs in the liturgy. They sing with me. And if God gives them other tasks, who am I to say otherwise? — GS