Today I share with you a guest post from my friend JD at Compassion Can. This is a continuation of of her post Forgiveness. If you missed her first post, I would encourage you to first take a moment to read it here, and then come back and join us for Forgiveness part 2. JD is an amazing writer, friend, lover of Jesus, justice fighter, and has been an incredible inspiration to me. As you read JD's testimony I ask that you let these words sink in deep; deep enough to change you.
I came early that morning, in eager anticipation to hear from His word. The sermons at our church have been intensifying week by week since summer, leaving me feeling so inspired each week, so convicted, so moved, so in love with the God we serve.
A week prior, Rebecca had asked if I would write a blog post to share how to love our neighbor through forgiveness. She knew my story, and knew that through sharing, God could use it for good. Honored, I accepted. The post was nearly done, I was just waiting on God’s final “go” so that it would be finished. Rebecca was gracious and patient with me as it took longer than I had anticipated.
As the sermon began, I leaned forward in attention as I learned that the main topic would be forgiveness. The post came to mind, and I began to take notes. Would He be showing me something I could share in that post?
The pastor made key points that were worth noting:
“The only effective treatment for the acid of resentment is the antacid of forgiveness.” Yes.
“Resentment, grudges, negativity are burdens that grow over time.” True.
“Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, and discovering that it was you.” Amen.
So far, all of it felt like a good review before a test. These were all nuggets of wisdom I knew, believed and embraced, usually easily. I prayed for God to show me more.
The pastor then spoke of the Lord’s prayer, and pointed out the one word most often overlooked in this prayer:
Forgive our trespasses, AS we forgive those who trespass against us.
It didn’t click in right away... something else had caught my attention. He gave the very vivid story of a brutal officer in South Africa who had kidnapped a woman’s 18 year old son, shot him and burned him on a stake, turning the body on the fire as though he was roasting an animal. The officer then returned 8 years later, took her husband, and forced her to watch as they poured gasoline on him and burned him alive.
When the officer was brought to court, the court gave the woman the opportunity to place demands on the officer.
She said “Go back to the place where her husband was burned, gather the ashes so that I may give them a proper burial.” The officer’s head hung in shame. She continued “Officer, you took all my family away from me, but I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like you to come to the ghetto where I live, and spend the day with me in my humble house so that I can be a mother to you. I would like you to know that you are forgiven by God, and you are forgiven by me too. I’d like to embrace you so that you can know my forgiveness is real.” Spontaneously, someone broke out into song, singing “Amazing Grace”. She was not able to embrace the officer – he had passed out in the presence of such radical mercy, grace, love and forgiveness.
As tears poured down my face, I whispered a plea to God “That is the kind of forgiveness I seek to give – help me live it out loud for you.” I was overcome with emotion, reflecting back on the gift of forgiveness, the heart of it, and why it was so important.
Still struck by that visual of the story the pastor had shared, I had all but forgotten that one word as I walked out of church that morning. You know, the one often overlooked. I was re-focused on the post about having forgiven my father, reflecting on that day in my life, how overwhelmed with love, compassion, mercy, and grace I had been for him, against all that made sense. I reflected back on that woman whose story the pastor shared in the sermon, then back on my father, then back again on the woman...
And then it hit me... forgive us AS we forgive those... Every day, it’s me in that truck, head down, hands trembling, words shaking, as I seek His mercy and grace, as I realize how short I fall of His glory – who do I want standing by me, and how would I want to be forgiven? When I genuinely seek forgiveness from Him, will He also feel the way I did that day, overwhelming love compassion, mercy and grace pouring from Him as it poured from me for my father – I know how that felt, to experience that outpouring to my father that day, and I can only imagine how much better God does this than I did... and to know that this is how He would feel, for me... for us all... brings me to my knees.
The measure with which we forgive, is the measure with which we will be forgiven. I had never looked at it this way before – and I’m sure never to forget this lesson. Is it any wonder that we are called to love one another as He loves us? Oh, how He loves us....