Forgiveness on Display

Forgiveness on Display

Matthew 5: 44-45

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father in heaven.


                Last Wednesday night the nation was shaken again by the murder of 9 innocent people at a church Bible Study in Charleston, South Carolina. Almost a week after it all still doesn’t make sense to me, but the thing is, it doesn’t have to make sense to me. I am not in control of the situation, God is, and that should give us all rest. But I believe the nation was in just as much shock when the family of the 9 slain people were given the opportunity to confront the man responsible for murdering their loved ones. There were no harsh words of hatred or despise. No one took the opportunity to wish the worst on the young man, but instead the people came and offered the young man forgiveness just days after their loss. One man even wished that the man would repent and turn to Jesus Christ for salvation.

                In the church we often talk about loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us, but in all reality most all of us have absolutely no idea what it is like to have real enemies that are a threat to us and we don’t experience persecution. But we saw in Charleston someone act out in hate towards a group of people, our brothers and sisters, and the reaction that we saw was exactly what Jesus called for on in the verses above. These people had experience hate from an enemy and persecution on a serious level. And I believe that it is absolutely amazing that these people were ready to offer this man forgiveness just days after the events took place. I thank God that these people we able to show to the world that the real Christian message is not get better and come to God, but instead it is a message of simply repent and come to Christ.

                I wonder if we would be prepared today if we were to face this type of persecution or enmity? I wonder if we were given the chance to face someone who had killed our loved ones if we would offer him words of forgiveness and love, or words of hatred and condemnation. I am not confident to say that I would be able to see the man and not explode with anger and hatred, and I know that is not what Christ would want me to do, but I am simply being transparent with you. And I think the overwhelming majority of us would respond in a similar fashion. I think it would take some time for us to get to the point to being able to forgive someone like that.

                But shouldn’t our lives be characterized so much by grace that it just spills out of us? I mean, when we look at our own lives and we see the things that we do or think on a daily basis and we know that God is willing to forgive us of those sins, shouldn’t we be willing to give that same type of forgiveness to other people? Most of the time I don’t think we realize how bad we are and how much we have been forgiven of and it hinders us from being able to forgive other people in our lives. A lot of the time we think that we would never do something as bad as they have done to us, but we miss the sins in our lives that is just as bad. God on a daily basis is forgiving us of sins against him, we are constantly letting him down and offending him, but every day, day in and day out, he is there to forgive us of those sins. What I would like to see in us, that I believe the people in Charleston understood was the grace of God on their lives. They understood that they had been forgiven of much and were willing to, in turn, forgive much. I pray that their example and the words of Christ will soften our hearts and help us to see that these people have shown us a picture of forgiveness.