Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Spirit of Forgiveness

I sat down late Wednesday night to watch a little TV and saw the terrible breaking news about the church shooting in Charleston.  I couldn't believe it.  People shot in church.  I'd just come from church, myself.  I shook my head and murmured an all too familiar prayer that I've found myself praying more and more lately when something repulsive like this happens, "God, help us". 

While the political leaders and candidates tripped over each other trying to get to a microphone with their sympathies and solutions, the rest of the country was witnessing that something amazing was starting to happen. 

The victims' family members spoke to the killer in court.  One after another, they stood up, looked at his face on the screen, offered their forgiveness to him, and prayed that he would find salvation and hope in Jesus.   

Wow.

I started thinking about the most terrible thing that a person could do to me.  It wouldn't be to harm me physically or to steal everything that I own or to hold me against my will or to slander my name.  No, it would be to inflict harm on someone in my family.  That's probably true for most of us.    

It's easy for us to sit in church and talk about love and mercy and forgiveness and read all the verses about our enemies and discuss what's expected of us when we're wronged......but it's in the hard places of life where the real test of our faith comes.......where we see how deep down Jesus goes in a person....if He's just on the surface or if He permeates throughout their heart. 

Few of us have or ever will experience a test of our faith like the Charleston church has. Those tight spots where we're asked to go against everything our human nature is screaming inside of us.  Against everything that our world expects from us.  Against everything that seems logical and justifiable in our minds.  To swim against the stream of our raw emotions.   

It's in those times that we're asked take the narrow, difficult road.  The road less traveled.  The road that Jesus took.  The road that Jesus takes with each of us every day.

It is going the extra mile.  It's turning the other cheek.  It's loving those who hate us.  It's forgiving seventy times seven.   It's doing good to those who hurt us.  It's not just giving our shirt, but our coat, too.  It's not rejoicing when our enemies fall.  It's praying for those who persecute us.  It's giving our enemy bread when he's hungry.  It's not repaying evil with evil. 

It's not the world's way.  It's definitely not the easy way.

It's Christ's way.   

I thought that, even as a Christian myself, how difficult that would be to offer forgiveness, especially this soon, and yet these families did it with such grace and compassion.  To forgive him and to pray that he finds salvation and mercy from God.....yes, the man who entered their church and, in hate, killed their defenseless mothers, sons, and sisters, and husbands. 

The same spirit of forgiveness that Jesus had toward His assailants even as they killed Him.  The same mercy and forgiveness that He offers to each of us.   

We can continue to pray for this church and, in our own little corners of the world, we, of all races, can make an effort to show love and build bridges over swamps of hate.  Charleston has come together united.....black and white.....not like in other places where we've seen the flames of hate fanned, stoked, and celebrated. 

It's like night and day.     

Every person will be judged by the merits of his or her own heart and these people, clearly, have the heart of Jesus inside of them. 

What a difference it makes.     

May God bless and comfort them as they continue to be living witnesses for Him.



       
            
 



3 comments:

  1. Great post, Joni! You are so right, it is hardest to forgive when it is a loved one that has been hurt. I respect the families of the Charleston victims tremendously. They did what Jesus would do.

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  2. The fact he sat with them, welcoming him in their church what gets me. The families telling him God have Mercy on his Soul. Very powerful Joni. This post is a reminder of God's love in people's hearts. Kathleen in Az

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  3. So true! But impossible to do without God in our hearts . . . Your posts often make me laugh or nod my head in agreement. This one inspired me to 'walk in love'.

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