Jesus Set the Example of Forgiveness
"We lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw," Bill said as he leaned back in his chair. "My wife, our two daughters and our three little boys. When the Germans reached our street they lined everyone against a wall and opened up with machine guns. I begged to be allowed to die with my family, but because I spoke German they put me in a work group."
"I had to decide right then," he continued, "whether to let myself hate the soldiers who had done this. It was an easy decision, really. I was a lawyer. In my practice I had seen too often what hate could do to people’s minds and bodies. Hate just killed the six people who mattered most to me in the world. I decided then and there that I would spend the rest of my life . . . loving every person I came in contact with."
Bill survived in a concentration camp for six years and lived to be liberated by the Allies in 1945. As remarkable as his story is, the decision he made was even more remarkable. Bill applied, under the most terrifying and painful circumstances imaginable, a basic teaching of Christianity. It is called forgiveness.
The families of the five children who died in the Jonesboro, Arkansas, schoolyard shooting will be sitting in church services, probably hearing sermons about an innocent man who was brutally murdered nearly 2000 years ago. His name is Jesus Christ. Some of His last words were, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
The Apostle Peter tells us, "When He was reviled, [He] did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously," I Peter 2:23.
Years later the Apostle Paul wrote, "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men . . . . Do not avenge yourselves but rather give place to wrath. Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord," Romans 12:17-19.
The acid test of a Christian is to love everyone, even our enemies and those who mistreat us. "When you do good and suffer for it, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving an example that we should follow in His steps," I Peter 2:20-21.
As we reflect on the suffering of our Savior, who gave His life for the forgiveness of the sins of all mankind, let us reflect on the importance of forgiveness in our lives.
We have all suffered wrongfully. Some far more than others. But holding on to anger, hatred, and bitterness will not undo the wrong that has been done. Rather, these negative emotions are spiritual poisons that can destroy us, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
For those who have suffered horrible, senseless brutalities, choosing to reject these reactions can be a formidable challenge. Through the healing power of the Holy Spirit, our Savior can help us accept this challenge, and forgive.
For the rest of us, the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) can put the matter in the proper perspective. Timely reading for any season of the year.
The Bible Defines Truth
According to a recent newspaper article, in a recent written statement Monica Lewinsky "asserted that she was not urged to lie, . . . but said she was told to tell a certain version of events . . . that did not actually happen." Do you see anything wrong with that analysis? In the words of Pilate’s sarcastic rhetorical question, "What is truth?"
Where can we go to define truth? Even the dictionary doesn’t offer much help. In part the definition of "true" reads, "being in accordance with the actual state of affairs." But according to whose perception? Monica Lewinsky didn’t seem to consider someone else’s version of reality as lying.
A second aspect of the definition is, "conformable to an acceptable reality." What constitutes "an acceptable reality?" If "reality" is simply in the eye of the beholder, we are left adrift on the sea of uncertainty.
Jesus points to God’s word as the source of truth (John 17:17). Isaiah observed, "If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them," Isaiah 8:20.
Jesus also said, "I am the way, the truth and the life," John 14:6, because His life and teachings perfectly personify the word of God.
In His face-to-face famous confrontation with Satan, He boldly proclaimed, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," Matthew 4:4. This speaks of stark contrasts between humanistic materialism and Bible-based morality. Looking out for number one without regard for others as opposed to loving others as yourself. Living "by hook or by crook" versus honesty and integrity.
Putting a spin on facts is commonplace, even taken for granted these days. Skewed, self-serving perceptions of reality permeate virtually every aspect of life. From establishing who was at fault in a traffic accident to the "he did, she did" debates in marital arguments and divorce cases.
Tobacco company studies deny that tobacco use leads to lung cancer. A White House spokesman describes President Clinton’s relationship with Ms. Lewinsky as too complicated to explain.
The words of the prophet Isaiah jump to life in the context of our society: "No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies . . . and weave the spider’s web. . . . Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off: For truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter."
Truth is a fundamental prerequisite of all relationships and the very essence of reality. The Bible is a bastion of truth and bulwark of morality that can buttress the moral fiber and quality of life in every arena of human relationships.
Judeo-Christian values have formed the backbone of morality in this nation since its inception. But in what has been referred to as the "post-Christian era," we are in the throes of a morality meltdown. Good and evil and right and wrong have been replaced by politically correct euphemisms such as values and ethics.
Regardless of the actions of others and trends in society, each of us has the God-given opportunity and constitutional right to live by (and teach our children) the truth as defined in the pages of the Bible and reap the positive benefits.
— The preceding articles, written by Larry J. Walker, Pastor, United Church of God, Bend, Oregon, appeared in the March 6, and April 17, 1998, issues of The Bend Bulletin newspaper. Mr. Walker writes articles for the newspaper’s "Pastor’s Pulpit" feature column, as part of his Church’s outreach ministry. You may also contact Larry Walker for sermon audio tapes: Larry J. Walker, 16213 Sparks Drive, La Pine, OR 97739. Larry’s articles are on the Internet at www.transport.com/~lwalker/Articles, including his excellent studies on Colossians 2:16 and Galatians.