It may seem strange to us, but overseas it is common to have a house guard. This is someone who answers the gate, protects the compound, keeps the garden, runs errands, etc. Sometimes they even become like part of the family, protecting you from being taken advantage of, sharing meals each day, playing with children, laughing together, and crying together. This was Bel.
To many, his gentle care as house guard was merely outward evidence of what seemed to be real heart change. Bel had committed to Christ through the witness of the missionaries who lived at the home he guarded. It was beautiful to watch him blossom in his house church and quickly obey the teachings of Jesus. He immediately began sharing the gospel with others, and even established several other small groups of new believers. He endured persecution, grew in responsibility, sacrificed for others, prayed fervently, and encouraged with great affection. He worked hard in his studies at nursing school and married his sweetheart. As Paul said of believers at Philippi, Bel was a joy and crown to the missionaries.
Imagine the shock when Bel announced he was leaving his wife when it was discovered that she was HIV positive. The dagger only pressed deeper when he coldly confessed to lying about many parts of his life, and that he had stolen several things from the missionaries’ compound. He even brought the stolen items back as evidence, but showed no remorse.
Despite their pleading counsel, Bel refused to repent, divorcing his ailing wife and leaving her alone. He took his severance pay and disappeared, leaving only the lament and questions that linger when the beloved fall away.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.