Finding God's New Hope by extending FORGIVENESS
Wednesday, July, 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM | by asmith
How do you deal with people who hurt you and “do you wrong?” Some flee. Others fuss. Feisty folks fight. But, faithful followers of Christ FORGIVE.
Superior to the world’s toxic way of allowing a hurt to fester into hate is the Jesus way. God’s prescribed response to being wronged is to respond with Jesus-like mercy: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Several years ago, a man joined our church and made an appointment to tell me his story. In painful detail he chronicled a bitter divorce that terminated a malignant marriage. Through his story, he verbally torched his sorry ex-spouse. After 30 minutes of listening, I asked for the time-line of these events. To my shock, he explained, “We were divorced 12 years and 3 months ago.” His description sounded as current as yesterday’s newspaper. This poor person languished as a prisoner of his past. He was bound by invisible chains of hurt and hate. I gently explained that, “Christ-emulating forgiveness could be the key to set him free.”
Maybe you protest by saying, “Jay, you don’t know the terrible things that were done to me!” That is true, but I do know what they did to Jesus. For the crime of loving and serving, Roman soldiers drove railroad spikes through His quivering flesh. Jesus did not curse them, but prayed for the vicious soldiers, “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”
The extreme love and forgiveness of Christ reminds me of what happened in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, among the Amish in October 2006. A deranged gunman named Charles Roberts went to the West Mine Amish School for young girls. He carried two pistols, two shotguns, a rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. He entered the school and barricaded the door. Roberts proceeded to shoot the little girls, ranging in ages from 6 to 13 years. Six of them died, but four of the wounded girls survived. Roberts committed suicide after attacking the precious children.
How did the Amish Christ-followers respond? The grandfather of one of the murdered children sought out Roberts’ father and comforted the grieving man as he wept into his friend’s shoulder for over an hour. Half of the people at Roberts’ funeral had lost children to the dead man’s murderous rampage. The Amish elders set up a charitable fund to receive money to assist Roberts’ wife and three children. The Amish refused to become prisoners of hurt and hate. In the name of Jesus, they extended extreme forgiveness. Roberts’ widow Marie wrote a note that became famous: “Your love for our family helped provide the healing we so desperately need. The gifts that you have given touched our heart in a way that no words can describe. Your compassionate and Christ-like forgiveness have reached beyond our community and touched the world.”
The Amish tore down the bloody West Mine School and built a new one called New Hope School. And that is what happens when you find freedom by extending Christ-like forgiveness – you cut the chains of hurt and hate and step into a season of New Hope!