We live in a culture that feeds off vengeance that we like to mask in the form of "justice". Every body seems to want "justice" - whether it is the person who feels they are wrongly accused of a crime to the athlete who feels they have been unjustly paid for their services. We want someone to pay when they do something wrong towards us - although we are quick to want leniency or mercy when we are on the other end of the issue. This retributive justice is everywhere. To be fair, there are many times when I want it for me or my family even if I do not actively seek it out - so in a sense I am the proverbial "pot".
It is rare in our society when you hear someone offer what sounds like unadulterated forgiveness and mercy. In a society of strength (or perceived strength) such a response just does not seem or feel natural. Perhaps that is because it is not natural - at least not when we are living in opposition to God & his kingdom.
But this week we heard of a family who epitomized true, biblical forgiveness: Their father had just been murdered live on Facebook. The perpetrator seemed to show not remorse. Yet they stepped before a news reporter & before the accused had been apprehended, they said they had already forgiven him. In the article it said: "Godwin’s former wife, Dorothy Crumpton, called the victim her “best friend.” When, at the end of an interview, CNN host Don Lemon asked Crumpton for a message to finished with, she decided to quote from the Bible’s most important passage — John 3:16. “OK, since I got the last words,” Crumpton said. “‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'”
You can read the full article below.
The response of this family has in some circles been called "shocking", "unfathomable", or "baffling". But to the church it should not be surprising. Any person who has experienced the grace, mercy & forgiveness of Jesus Christ should be the first to forgive - even the most heinous offenses - because we know that God has forgiven us of even of our most heinous sins.
In your life, you will most likely not be called upon someone who has murdered a person you love. But you will find that your character or name has been assassinated; that your marriage has been attacked perhaps even by the person you are married to; you will be wrongfully terminated by an employer or have your finances stolen by a common thief or a trusted financial advisor - in all situations God has called us to forgive - 70 times 7 - infinitely. Many in the church find it all to easy to explain Jesus words in Matthew: "but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses;" as if Jesus is not serious, that forgiveness is not important or that you have an escape clause in your salvation. At its core I think Jesus words are clear - if you are unforgiving person, you have most likely not experienced the forgiveness of God through Jesus, therefore you will not be forgiven in the future either.
Think upon that - stew that over the next time you withhold forgiveness to the person at church who gossiped about you or towards the classmate that copied your paper or the spouse that was unfaithful. Instead of looking for the reason why you are not obligated to forgive in your personal situation (as if God's law and character are subservient to your wants or desires), be reminded of all the times you were dishonest, unfaithful & disobedient to your Creator - Remember, in Jesus he is faithful and just to forgive all your sins & in light of the Cross - Forgive others.
There will be thoughts from time to time that justice will not be served if you forgive; or that someone will not face the consequences if you so easily forgive the offense - but remember - every sin will be judged - either in Hell or on the cross of Jesus. To withhold forgiveness is to say that the justice you will get in the short term is more sufficient that the justice of God - it is not. So forgive ~ then forgive again ~ then forgive again - that is after all what Jesus would do!