This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Grace Dube (from South Africa. Mrs. Dube's husband, Benjamin, was stabbed to death. She continues to preach his message of forgiveness), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)
Benjamin was not alone when he was killed. One of my sons was with him, Benjamin, Jr. He was only 12 years old and managed to escape. From behind a barrel he saw what they did to his father.
He came running home to Soweto to tell me what had happened. Even though my husband had predicted what would happen I could not believe it had happened.
My son Benjamin went to his room and wept and wept, all night. Then the Lord did something in the heart of my boy. He heard a wonderful voice, like his father had heard. His father had often told him: 'Benjamin, you must take my place to sing for the Lord if anything happens to me.' Early the next morning I heard singing, coming from my son's bedroom. At first it was a broken voice, but then, it became clearer and clearer. I could hear my boy sing to the Lord. He sang a verse from the Scripture: 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'
I could hardly control myself. O Lord, make me like my children. Help me to forgive.
My son and I have sung this wonderful song together ever since, in many meetings, in many countries, to many people who are hurt--and who need to forgive also.
Father forgive us, because we too do not always know what we are doing.
A moment of introspection: How many times have we asked our heavenly Father to instill within the hearts of suffering Christians a spirit of forgiveness and grace? We acknowledge that forgiveness is one of the modes God uses to restore a broken and suffering individual to health after he or she experiences persecution. Without such forgiveness, restoring a person can be hampered and incomplete. Forgiveness restores broken relationships and helps them to move forward. Forgiveness helps to smooth small impediments in one's path, and keep them from becoming exaggerated crises.
In God's Word, care was taken to prepare even us for the advent of persecutory opposition from the world (John 15:20). We know that ever since the days in which Jesus Christ walked this earth, Christianity--our faith--has challenged the sensibilities and comfort of existing systems of government, "pagan" religions and their radical elements, and authorities. The same continues to this day. In 151 countries, and increasingly in our own country, opposition rears its ugly head to eradicate Christianity from its presence. How, then, are we as believers in the Christ and in the Triune God of which He is part, to respond to opposition who considers itself an enemy of salvation? Let's go back to the Holy Scriptures and learn.
God's Holy Scriptures have much to say about forgiveness and responding to opposers; let's take a look:
Matthew 6:14-15 - If we forgive others' trespasses, God will forgive us for our own. If we fail to forgive others in their trespasses, God will not forgive our own. And as Grace Dube asserts, "we too do not always know what we are doing." (A take-off of Luke 23:34)
Luke 23:34 - Jesus asked his Father to forgive His tormentors, acknowledging the ignorance implicit in their deeds. With Christ as our example, we too do well to ask God to lend divine forgiveness to our own opposers.
Romans 4:7 - King David remarked that if God forgives an offender--if we, in our own walk, forgive an offender--that person is blessed, and his "sins are covered."
Luke 7:47 - A woman with many [forgiven] sins loved much; but one with few forgiven sins knows little love. We can forgive our foes who grieve us greatly, and help thereby to multiply their love.
Luke 6:27-36 –
*Love your enemies.
*Do good to those who hate you.
*Bless those who curse you.
*Pray for those who abuse you.
*Even though we believers will often be subject to abuse or be taken advantage of, we are to face such rejection differently from the world, that is, by being generous and compassionate rather than retaliating.
*From one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
*As you wish others would do to you, do likewise to them. For example, in the face of hate, show kindness and compassion
*Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.
*As our heavenly Father is kind, so we should exercise kindness to the ungrateful and the evil.
Romans 5:10-11 - Remember that we too were once enemies of God; but we have been reconciled to God through Christ's death and saved by His life. So, too, our opposers can be brought to reconciliation to God.
Romans 12:20-21 -
*If your enemy is hungry, feed him.
*If your opposer is thirsty, give him something to drink.
*Overcome evil with good.
In God's precious Word, we are even given guidance in how not to respond to oppressors and opposers. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus responded to reactive violence from His own followers. (Matthew 26:52) In His response, Jesus suggested that those who respond to aggression with aggression will themselves suffer defeat by such aggressive actions. He elsewhere stated "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it." (Mark 8:34-35) To the church in Rome, the apostle Paul urged his readers to "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) In other words, do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good. According to our Lord Jesus Christ, we are not to respond aggressively or violently to oppression or persecution. Grace Dube experienced the loss of her beloved husband, Benjamin, in a gruesome act of killing. Her son was an eye-witness; for Grace, as it was for her own son, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5b) Senseless brutality and violent death at the hands of angry perpetrators/killers have brought countless tears of grief to Christians around the globe. Through it all, Immanuel bears up those who grieve and provides blessed succor and strength.
The progression of world events may affect millions more believers. We who count ourselves as members within the body of Christ, may yet come to know the personal hatred of the world toward us. Within our body, countless have already seen its face, and have felt the strengthening hand of God acting in their lives. Let us remember Christ's words (John 15:20) and take heart, for He has overcome the world. Let us join in with the young Benjamin who, at age 12, sang with understanding, the words, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And in our own forgiving, Christ can set us free from a burdened life of roiling pain and feelings of vengeance. After all, God wishes us to live peaceful lives: 'If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."' (Romans 12:18–19). Lord, help us to forgive.