All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV)
I spoke yesterday how life is like a rope of sand. You can’t hold onto it, no matter how hard you try. We also can’t predict what might happen at any moment. My heart has been heavy this past week after the shooting in Oregon. I think about the conversations at breakfast. Plans being made for the weekend or perhaps just for the afternoon. And then in one senseless evil moment nine lives were lost and an entire community was shaken to its very core.
Every indicator at this point says that the shooter, for whatever reason, was targeting Christians. I say this with caution because when events like this happen, its difficult to completely get a true accounting of the events. But let it suffice to say, at this moment the targeting of Christians seems to be the case.
How are we, as the church, to respond to something like this? That’s not an idle question. We may focus more on an event like this because it happens in our own country, but perhaps it ought to wake us up to the truth that Christians are being persecuted all over the world. Always have been, really, in one form or another. Consider, just in the past year or two we have seen a systematic mass murdering of Christians in Iraq and Iran. Consider the mass killings of Christians in Syria. When we take our eyes off of our own situation and take a more global view we quickly understand we must have some type of response.
So how are we as Christians to respond? If we are to take God at His word, and if we are to believe the Scriptures as the authoritative word of God we have only one response. We are to respond with forgiveness. Responding with forgiveness does not preclude, in any way, the work to end persecution and asking for justice to be done to those who perpetrate it. But when it comes down to it, there is no wiggle room in our response. We are to respond with forgiveness.
Which you probably already knew. I mean, it’s not a new concept. We don’t always do it, but we pretty much know we are to respond with forgiveness. But why? Why are we to forgive? Why we do something is as important as what we do. Truthfully what we do is shaped by why we do something.
Very often I’ve heard God asks us to forgive because of what hatred does to us. I forgive so that the evil you have done to me doesn’t control me. You have already done something terrible to me. I’ll not let you control my heart or my emotions in the future. And I’ve no doubt some of this is true. There is a personal benefit to forgiveness. If nothing more it allows us to let go of a bitterness that can destroy our spirit.
But this also comes off as a selfish reason why to forgive. I forgive because it benefits me. One could reason that if one could not see or experience any benefits from forgiveness they would not necessarily be compelled to forgive.
Our response is forgiveness because that is Jesus response. That’s it. It’s not about us or the benefits we may experience from forgiving someone. We forgive because Jesus forgives. And as Christians our lives are to be shaped from the inside out by the Holy Spirit. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we become more like Jesus. If I am unwilling to forgive it shows my spirit is not being shaped by the Holy Spirit. If Jesus forgives, then I forgive. It’s not about the person. It’s not about the evil they have done. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.
That’s what Paul is getting at in the Scripture at the top of the page. Jesus’ ministry is one of forgiveness and reconciliation. If we are His, then our ministry and the way we live will reflect HIs life. A ministry or forgiveness and reconciliation.
Yes it is hard. It is at times unfathomable how anyone can forgive such evil. But perhaps that’s the point. When we allow God to forgive through us and we exhibit an unworldly ability to forgive our lives point back to Jesus. And that ought to be reason enough.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><