Called to Forgiveness

By Jim Allen

A lady asked if the act of forgiveness by believers in the Charleston massacre was foolish. "Is it really necessary to forgive?" she asked. Is it wise to set ourselves up as soft targets? Shouldn't we arm ourselves against those who would take life for the least of reasons?

These questions from an insightful lady capture the feelings of many. After all, most of us know how it feels to be wronged. Payback is a natural response. We've been on the receiving end and know the pain and anger and need for payback, so we think. But, forgiving a person like Dylann Roof is indeed a rare display of virtue not often found in people today.

Is there a difference between Roof's sin and the lesser sins of men? While men may argue there is, from God's perspective there is no difference. Though men may view a lie as small and trivial, it has the power to destroy a person's good name and future aspirations as surely as a bullet. A bullet is merciful and quick...but a lie can linger over a person's life for years, like a vulture circling in the noonday sun.

During the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, a leading senator falsely accused Mitt Romney of tax evasion. The senator's invention circled over Romney's campaign like a scavenger in wait. Though Romney lost the election, some say Americans lost the country by the barrage of lies and misinformation from the Democratic Party.

A few years after the election, the same senator was interviewed by CNN Dana Bash. During the interview, when asked about the false allegation, the senator sneered and said, "Romney didn't win, did he!" (Source)

When asked by another reporter about the senator's false allegation and sneering comment, Romney responded by suggesting the past is behind and the need to move on is ever before us. This presidential candidate's display of wisdom and integrity is a scarcity these days, and unheard of in politics.

Romney didn't look for payback. He knew that to forgive is always the right thing to do even when the most difficult thing to do. He forgave by keeping no record of the wrong done to him and America.

Jesus practiced forgiveness. In fact, he is the author of forgiveness. He endured the greatest of all wrongs by feeling the deep sting of human hate that pierced his heart. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Though such forgiveness is hard to imagine, Jesus had the divine virtue of forgiveness that drove his unconditional love.

Without forgiveness, the spirit of revenge slithers around in the mind until it finds a way to avenge the wrong. Recognizing the need to put aside revenge was the first step in closing the door to payback. The Bible says repay evil with good (1 Peter 3:9; Romans 12:19).

In Mr. Roof's case, the members of church forgave because of who they are in Christ (Philippians 4:13). They forgave because unforgiveness is too heavy of a burden for anyone to carry. They forgave not for the benefit of the evildoer but for theirs, to begin anew and heal.

A forgiving spirit is never foolish. It is the opposite, even when many do not see the wisdom in releasing the pain. Marianne Williamson, author and lecturer, gave a great analogy at one of her speaking conferences when she said, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison...and waiting for the other person to die." (Source)

A forgiving heart transcends above the ways of men. To know the way of forgiveness is to glimpse the beauty of God. As Alexander Pope so eloquently penned, "To err is human, to forgive, divine." (Source)

During the court hearing required to release Dylann Roof on bail, family members and survivors attended and were given an opportunity to address Roof. Of those who spoke, their aggrieved hearts were on display for a nation to see and hear.

With tears of anguish came words of mercy and forgiveness. Words like these from broken hearts are seldom heard anymore. Words like these carry deep meaning, a touch of the divine, evidence of Jesus' indwelling presence to choose kind-heartedness over reprisal.

A forgiving spirit is a powerful force, a display of love, a thing of beauty. Who can know and understand it? Who can possess the gift of forgiveness in a world like this? "A little girl was asked what forgiveness is...She gave a beautiful answer: 'It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.'" (Source)

Words of forgiveness from the lips of crushed believers contained within the fragrance of flowers while echoing the scripted words from the Apostle Paul: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

To forgive is always the right thing to do even when the most difficult thing to do.


Image Credit: mmatins; "Crush the flowers"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Current-Issues  | Hardships  | Personal-Relationships  | Sin-Evil

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Published 7-13-2015