Short Story: “The Serpent and the Dove”


Despite my better sense, I’ve been mulling over the sequel to the book I just launched, Soul Survivor. Here’s a taste:

Salzburg, Austria

After his introduction, the gray-haired man in his 60s got up from his chair on the platform amid applause from the small audience. He looked out over the thirty-some people in the audience as he stood behind the microphone.

Douglas Washington sat in a metal chair in the second row and stared at the man for a long while as he stood there, without doubt the most famous man in the room, yet still as unassuming as ever. The famous scar that identified him and marked his historical journey ran from beneath his left ear across his throat to the tip of his chin. When Douglas had seen Harris Borden last, he had worn a full beard to cover the scar, as if he were ashamed of it. But now, here in front of these men, Borden wore it like a badge of honor. It signaled a landmark in the journey that all of them had taken in the past twenty years.

“Our scripture today is one that you are all very familiar with,” Borden said. “It’s from Matthew 10:16: ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’”

He paused for a moment to let the words sink in before continuing.

“We all know the setting behind these words. Jesus was about to send his disciples out into the world on their first missionary journey. He knew that they would not only have to deal with people who didn’t like what they had to say, or who they were, or what they represented. That was bad enough. He knew that they would be dealing with Satan and his armies. Ephesians 6: 12 spells it out: ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’”

* * *

Buenos Aires, Argentina

“¿Encontraste un piloto confiable?” Ernesto Gulliame looked into the hotel room where the two other teammates were gathering up their gear.

“English, Ernesto,” Maria barked back at him. “Yes, we found a dependable pilot. Now for the last time, will you pick up the gear and get it to the car? We’re going to be late.”

Ruiz shook his head. “I don’t know why you insist on speaking English here in Argentina. We’ll have plenty of opportunity to do it while we’re in training.”

“Best get into the habit of it,” Maria sniffed. “As you say, you’ve had a lifetime to speak Spanish here at home. Now let’s take advantage of this opportunity to learn American English.”

“You betcha,” Ernesto said, grinning. “Is that all, Princess?”

Ruiz laughed, and Maria turned red, then shook her head.

“Just get the bags,” she said.

* * *

Tokyo, Japan

The shuttle bus to the airport was caught in the usual Tokyo traffic. The four young Christians sat in the back seat of the bus, looking at the scenery in the gathering darkness. The two young women talked and looked out the window. Ito Tamaguchi, the leader who had just celebrated his 25th birthday, looked at his watch again. They were going to be late. The older man, their chaperone, sat on the other side of him, reading his Bible. It was opened to Isaiah.

“God,” Ito prayed to himself. “I put myself and these others in your hands.”

* * *

Alexandria, Egypt

Solomon stood with the hood of the car opened, looking in mystery at a vehicle that wouldn’t go. He wiggled a few wires and then shouted to Ibrahim, the young man behind the wheel.

“All right, try it now,” he said. He heard the engine click.

“I don’t understand,” Solomon said. He looked back at the two others, who sat patiently in the vehicle, waiting for him. “It worked this morning.”

“I am praying, my brother,” Gamal said from the back seat.

Solomon smiled thinly. “I appreciate that greatly, Gamal. Perhaps God will send us a mechanic.” He turned and looked down the busy street to see if one was coming.

* * *

Douglas Washington watched the collection of church leaders from around the globe who had congregated to hear Harris Borden this evening. When all this began, no one could have guessed where Borden’s adventure would have taken them all, and no one could have imagined what was being proposed here. The concept was still so far-fetched that it was being kept under wraps away from most traditional church leaders. Only those who were innovative thinkers and known to Borden had been invited.

“So, let’s get back to our original scripture, shall we?” Borden was saying up front. “‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.’ Most theologians interpret this phrase judiciously. ‘Wise as serpents.’ Are snakes really wise? We generally say this means we shouldn’t take any risks. With our Christian brethren in many political situations, it usually means don’t take sides. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make waves. That way we can spend out efforts on spreading the gospel.

“Don’t make waves,” he said quietly, staring out at the audience. “Don’t make waves.”

“The trouble with that idea is that we live in a horrible, sin-filled, corrupt world,” Borden said, his voice rising. “People suffer because we don’t make waves. People die because we are afraid to rock the boat. I agree that most Christians shouldn’t go looking for trouble. But I also believe that there is plenty of trouble that’s out there, ready to look for them.

“That’s where we come in.”

* * *

Tokyo, Japan

Ito heard the roar of half a dozen high-powered motorcycles, sneaking between lanes on the freeway. Their roar grew louder as they drew up behind the shuttle bus. He heard a couple roar past, then he heard what sounded like a bump.

“What was that?” Yuki, who sat next to the window said.

“What was what?” Ito responded.

“It sounded like he put something on the side of the bus.”

Ito stood up and looked as the bikers roared away.

* * *

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ruiz pulled through the gate to the private airport in the minivan and drove across the tarmac to the small hangar where their chartered jet stood. As they drove up, Maria jumped out of the passenger seat and Ernesto ran around to the back to get the bags.

“What’s the pilot’s name?” Ruiz asked, slamming the door and heading for the hanger office.

“Lorenzo Pablon,” Maria shouted after to him. “Make sure his international pilot’s license is up to date.” Ruiz waved over his shoulder at her as she went to help Ernesto.

* * *

Alexandria, Egypt

“Look, look. Our prayers have been answered!” Gamal said. A small red Mitsubishi pickup pulled up in front of their car and two men in coveralls got out.

“Trouble?” the first man said.

“I don’t understand it,” Solomon said, standing in front of the raised hood. “It was running this morning.”

“The Devil doesn’t want us to get to the airport,” Gamal shouted from the back seat.

“Maybe so,” the first man said, pulling an automatic pistol out and pointing it at Solomon.

* * *

“More than twenty-five years ago, I asked God to be used in a bigger way,” Borden was saying up front. “He responded by showing the evil that pervades this world. There are not only bad people in this world. Satan lives in this world. Demons rule this world. And the more we push, the more they will push back.

“Satan doesn’t want good to succeed. He wants us to stay in our comfort zones, our protected little areas where we won’t be harmed and yet we won’t do any damage to his plans either. As long as we do nothing, he won’t hurt us. It’s when we try to do good, to shake up his plans, that Satan takes off the gloves.

“After I took on God’s challenge, I started others on my path. I call them The Heretics, because we choose a different path. Some think we’re crazy for choosing the dangerous road. But there are many people who need our help. And we aim to help them.

“A few years ago, I was given the chance to step aside and lead a normal life. I went back to the wife and son I had left many years before. But after all that I had seen, it was hard—no impossible—for me to put it all down. And so, I have called for something bigger. This.”

Borden looked out at the small gathering of Christians from around the world.

“You’ve been asked to come here because all of you know a little of my story and have an inkling of what we all face. It’s my plan to turn The Heretics into an international organization—with your help—and face evil wherever it raises its ugly head. As I speak, we have three teams from South America, Asia and Africa on their way to this meeting. After they meet with you, they will go on to training and then their assignments in their parent countries.”

Douglas Washington’s eyes squinted as he watched Borden unfold his plan.

* * *

Buenos Aires, Argentina

“Ernesto?” Maria shouted into the empty hangar. She got no response. “Ruiz? Where are you guys?” Then she fell back into Spanish.

Deja de jugar, amigos,” she shouted. When she got no response, she felt a chill go up her back. She headed over to the office and opened the door.

Inside, the woman at the desk was sitting slumped over her computer, blood running all over the keyboard. Maria gasped and turned to leave.

She never saw the man who killed her.

* * *

Alexandria, Egypt

Solomon backed away from the engine well slowly and joined the other two young men beside the car. When they saw the two dark men who held pistols on them, they had different reactions.

Gamal began to pray aloud and Ibrahim scowled at the two men.

“We are called by God,” Ibrahim said to them. “We aren’t afraid of you.”

“We don’t care,” said the second man. The first man shot Solomon in the chest, and then Ibrahim. Then they stood looking at Gamal, who continued to pray.

“Your prayers aren’t going to help you,” the man in front said.

“I’m not praying for myself,” Gamal said. “I’m praying for God to forgive you.”

The second man shot Gamal in the head, and then laughed.

* * *

Tokyo, Japan

“Pull over!” Ito began to shout to the bus driver. “We have to get out of this bus!”

“I can’t pull over,” the driver shouted back. “We’re in the center lane and both lanes on either side are blocked.”

“Then let us get our right here!” Ito shouted.

“Here! Are you crazy?”

“Here! Now! I think someone put a bomb on the outside of the bus!”

With those words, the bus driver slammed on the brakes and the bus came to a screeching halt right in the middle of rush-hour traffic.

“Everyone out! Everyone out!” Ito shouted in unison with the bus driver.

The people on the bus filed off quickly with Ito and the driver looking at each other as they came off the bus. Just as Ito’s feet touched the pavement, the bus exploded.

The entire back of the bus flew into the air.

* * *

“I’ve made reference to The Heretics in years past as being God’s spiritual Special Forces,” Borden continued, a small smile on his lips. “But that title is very misleading.

“For the forces of evil can depend on their own strength and the power of the dark one. But if we depend on our own strength, it only draws us away from dependence on God. Our strength comes in weakness. We must be prepared for the onslaught that is inevitable if we face evil in the world. We must also face the fact that some of us may not survive that confrontation.”

As he spoke, cellphones began to beep around the room, and people began to check texts.

“Tertullian wrote that ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.’ Well, that goes double for what we are doing. God is on our side. We may die doing what we are doing, but God will win. And that’s what counts.”

 

Douglas Washington checked his own cellphone, and he saw what he suspected the others were seeing. Dead in Buenos Aires. Murdered in Egypt. Explosion in Japan. His lips became a thin line as he looked around the room at the others.

If he knew anything about human nature, most of them didn’t hear a word Harris Borden said after the texts started coming in. And if those killed were from their countries, they were going to be open to Douglas’ idea.

For Douglas believed it was time for The Heretics to take the gloves off too.

 

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