The air was choked with tension and the stench of more than a dozen sweating bodies. Shouting and gesturing, the men were united into one purpose: enforcement of the law.
The young girl in their midst cowered, her terror palpable.
One man reached to rip at her blouse and she tried to pull away, but other men, laughing, held her arms. Tears and mascara streaked her face as she cried out to them, begging for mercy. More insolent laughter met her words.
The odor of power and perhaps of blood sport was strong in their nostrils, perhaps driving their madness.
Some on the fringes of the crowd scoured for more stones in the alleys between the glass walled skyscrapers that watched impassively.
“Name your crime!” demanded an older man dressed in a many colored striped tunic and a tribal headdress. “You know why you're here. Name it!” He stood over the girl menacingly. She tried to turn her head from his foul breath, but he grasped her jaw and leaned closer, his pale milky white eyes fixing hers.
She was mute. She had committed no crime. She had only walked home with a boy, something she'd done many times - before new laws were passed.
There was murmuring on the edges of the crowd and the men parted, allowing a hooded figure to penetrate their circle.
The older man looked up and scowled at his presence. “What do you want here?” His voice dripped venom.
The hooded man stood still for a moment, saying nothing as the crowd grew silent waiting to see what would happen.
Everyone recognized the man. He was known for his wisdom and his works of generosity. He'd given aid and support to many of them and their families in tough times.
Tonight though, his appearance here was different. Tonight, he was marked as an infidel.
He threw off his hood and stood facing the old man.
“The law is clear infidel!” hissed the elder.
“Yes, the law is clear.” the infidel's voice was calm. “It forbids many things, including the murder you are about to commit.”
“Enforcement of the law is grounds for what we do!” shouted one of the men.
“Silence!” ordered the elder. He turned to the infidel with a smile.
“But of course, you are correct”, he rejoined. “Let your god judge what is right. Unbelief is heresy, and the greatest of all crimes, much more than that of the girl's. Pray to your god and decide – should we allow her to go free, and punish you instead?”
The infidel stood for a moment in silence, his eyes closed.
“Choose infidel! Will you renounce your god and choose life for yourself?”
The infidel threw off the hooded cloak and stood bare but for a covering wrapped around his loins.
“Let her go free and do not touch a hair of her head to harm her and I will give you my decision.”
“Renounce your god and we will let her go free”, yelled another man, a stone ready in his hand.
“Silence I say!” The decisions of the proud old man would not be dictated by the mob. Besides, her punishment could wait for another day, which should please the men greatly.
“It will be as you have said. Allow the girl to go free. Give her her blouse.”
The young girl dressed hastily, never removing her eyes from the face of the infidel. How and why would he risk his life for hers? These thoughts remained with her as she fled, turning up the first alley she could find. There she paused, knowing they were no longer focusing on her. Gasping for breath, she peered around the corner of the building to see what would happen, straining her ears to hear.
“Now, we have done as you requested. What is your decision?” The old man's voice was as honey.
The infidel dropped to his knees. His voice was loud and clear: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!”
As the first of the stones flew from a zealous hand bent on administering the law, the sweet fragrance of heaven touched the infidel's senses, a fragrance that wafted its way to the location of a wondering young girl, beginning a new work in her.
Scripture reference: Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV
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