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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

I read an article today in which a person said that we needed the death of Bin Laden to come together as a nation. Now despite my chuckle at this man’s optimism that our nation has “come together”, I was a little bothered that we would “need” the death of anyone to come together.  What does this say about our needs as a human race that we need something violent to bring us together? My concern is that if it is death that brings us together, then how do we cope with life?

The words that have been circulating around the death of Osama Bin Laden vary: relief, pride, closure, joyful, glee, rejoice, revenge, retribution, etc.  There has been a need for closure for the tragedy of 9/11.  Bin Laden needed to be brought in for justice.  With the death of Bin Laden there has been a welling up of emotions in many people.  I have witnessed the struggle between vengeance, retaliation, forgiveness, celebration, and peace. I have seen my Christian brothers and sisters respond well and some not so well. I have questioned my own reactions.  I have concluded that I see no conflict with loving one’s enemy and forgiveness juxtaposed with the outcome of Bin Laden’s life.  Relief in someone’s death is different than celebration. In short, forgiveness and love does not equal blind tolerance to allow someone to continue to harm others and themselves.

Before I write anymore I would also like to add that after reading how the SEALS accomplished this mission I am amazed at their skill and humbled by the burden they carry in all they do and the burden they must carry now.  I am thankful for men and women like them and at the same time wish they weren’t needed.  I think it is good that Osama was found and though I do not mourn his death, I do not rejoice in his dying.

My concern goes deeper than the internal spiritual struggle. My concern is with the emotional response we expose in times like this.  I remember watching the news in 1993 after the disaster that took place in the Battle of Mogadishu, the one depicted in the movie Black Hawk Down, and the bodies of our soldiers being dragged through the streets. I had to wonder this week how close emotionally we are to that kind of scene.  What would have happened if Osama had been dropped alive in the middle of NYC? Our emotions are responding to rage, fear, assumed patriotism, mourning, frustration, etc.  The one thing we are not responding to is the divinity in our humanity.

The question I am faced with is do we really need the death of Osama Bin Laden to have closure, satisfaction, or security. The sad news is that this event really does not change anything permanently.  The end of the crusades did not stop men from misinterpreting scripture for evil purposes. The death of Hitler didn’t stop mad men from desiring the destruction of others not like themselves.  The death of Bin Laden will not stop hatred from infecting the minds of millions. Just like the silence after a murderer was hanged in the public square, we will simply read the news and go home to await another tragedy and hope for a good vengeance story.

Bleek? A little bit much for even my taste.  Reality? I know that a lot of camping and survivalist gear sold quite well in all the camping sections after the news of Osama’s death broke.  Is there good news? You better believe it.  There is a wonderful hymn that has been pulsing through my ears for about two months now, “my hope is built on nothing less that Jesus blood and righteousness”.  I thank God that I am in relationship with Him, especially in times like these.  The reason is that my hope does not rest in the news of this world nor the government, but that it rest completely in Jesus Christ.

We talk about Jesus’ blood and generally we see that blood as his blood that was spilt for our forgiveness and freedom.  But I see it also in his resurrection, bodily and whole, blood and bones.  He is a God who forgives in his death and invites me to participate in his resurrection.  His resurrection means that I have no fear of death for death is not final for me.  If I have no fear in death and my hope is in Christ, then what do I have to fear in life? Why do I have to wait on the demise of another to find satisfaction in me? I don’t.  My identity if found in him and therefore my security is not found in the tragedies of this world.  I do not have to wait for someone to apologize to me, or be brought to justice for something they have done to me in order for me to find peace. In Christ, I have a peace that passes all understanding and therefore can live out a life of peace and hope. This does not mean I live in denial or that I do this easily, but it does mean that I know where the source of true peace comes from and I have never been let down by Him before.

I am troubled by the man’s statement in that article about a nation needing the death of someone to bring us together because it means we are a nation with much to fear, much to loose, and much burden.  When people live out of that kind of burden it becomes difficult to truly live, to truly trust, to be honest with ones self and one another.  I think there is more to this world and this life and that is the reason I am an evangelist.  I do want people to know Christ.  But my agenda is not in moral superiority.  My agenda is not about propagating law.  My evangelism, which means good news, is about just that; good news.  Hope. Identity. Freedom.  Jesus Christ reminds us of our true humanity which is rooted in his divinity.  God is calling us all to be reconciled to him that we may discover who we really are.  He calls out to us and beckons us not to come together in death, but be unified in life, a life he offers freely. The peace and hope I had before and after the death of Bin Laden is the same, for it is not dependent on the ways of men but an everlasting source from the God of love.

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Jesus, Life, 9/11

Recently my mind has been in many different places.  I have started several blogs that are still sitting in my “draft” section.  A couple have been on the events of this past week involving the pastor in Gainesville, FL who originally planned to burn the Quran (he has now stated that he will never burn them).  But I kept coming back to the person of Christ.  Regardless of the varying emotions I have had about 9-11, terrorism, this pastor in Fl, and the various responses around the world, I have to remind myself not to live out of reaction and seek how the Holy Spirit desires to move and live out Christ within me.  As I was preparing for this weeks sermon I looked up the lectionary reading for Psalms.  This weeks lectionary reading comes from Psalm 51 and directed me toward the compassion and mercy of God in my own life.

Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions,and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right [2] spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

It is no secret that being forgiven is a relief and that our need to be forgiven is true.  The amazing thing of God is that he is so willing to extend that forgiveness.  In fact, the desire of God is to reconcile us to him.  Jesus said that he did not come to condemn but to give life.  He said that we condemn ourselves already.  This is one reason why when he teaches the disciples to pray, he tells us to ask for forgiveness.  I wonder though, how many of us pay attention to the rest of that prayer.  We are to say, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.  Jesus said we are also to love one another as he has loved us.

We pray in earnest the Psalm above and we pray in earnest that we desire to follow Christ, but living it out requires us to be very intentional about how we live.  Today is the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attack on our country.  A horrible day most of us remember vividly.  The question I hope you will ask yourself today is how do I move on from this event as Christ.  Is my life one filled with the hope of retribution and revenge, or forgiveness and life?

If your idea of love and forgiveness is one that forgets all wrongs and holds no one accountable, then you will no doubt think Jesus’ teachings of love and forgiveness of naive or not applicable to all of life.  However, Jesus never says forgive and forget.  Jesus never says we we are not accountable for our actions.  The prisoner who becomes a Christian is forgiven, but he still has to “render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.  Loving someone doesn’t mean we let people continue to harm people and forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget.

Forgiveness means that I won’t necessarily forget but I won’t hold it over your head, I won’t hold it against you.  Forgiveness, like a friend of mine said once, is saying I willfully choose not to retaliate against you.  Love is taking whatever means necessary that will promote life, health, and wholeness.

Should those who committed the evils against our country be held accountable? Yes.  But that is only the beginning.  Prison and execution will not bring about healing, restoration, and peace.  Only the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ can do that.  The question placed before us is: Are we willing to put as much energy and work into forgiveness as we are anger, fear, and frustration?

As a buddy of mine posted on his Facebook page this morning, “For God so loved the world (this includes Muslims) that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16

Let’s share life together. Let us live Christ.

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