Radical Forgiveness Diminishes the Power of Hate

MEME - 1 John 4 v 20As I watched the news reports about the violent, racist attacks in Charlottesville with tears in my eyes, I cried out to the Lord.

I’d started my Radical Forgiveness series as I struggled to forgive a few people who had hurt me deeply but showed no remorse, a few others who minimized, justified, and excused their actions while continuing to wound my heart through their surface-apologies.

My personal problems seem so small today.

Yet, the Lord has perfectly timed this study to prepare me for the overwhelming emotions I’m processing as I witness hate infesting communities across the world, the riots in Virginia being one more checkmark on evil’s scorecard.

What are Christ followers to do in the wake of such senseless violence?

We can start by living up to the name we claim.

Christians are, by definition, Christ followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit who dwells within each believer and purposed to live as representatives of the King of Kings.

The Bible clearly states that God’s servants cannot claim to love Him while hating others.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)

The hatred and ignorance that instigated the racist terrorist acts of violence in Charlottesville stem from evil that cannot be minimized, justified, or ignored.

Christ does not condone hatred, racism, injustice, discrimination, or violence. Neither can we.

As Christ followers, we cannot be content with cowering in our comfort zones, hiding behind apathy, indifference, or approval through silence, in order to avoid conflict or criticism.

Faith in Christ should embolden us, empowering us to speak truth in love, with gentleness and respect.

As we place our hope in Christ, we can persevere in love, making a difference because our loving Lord did not give His life so that we could be indifferent.

Jesus Himself said that loving Him is synonymous to obeying Him. He also clearly declares the greatest commandment.

“Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Truly loving God results in Spirit-empowered obedience, which would make loving our neighbors our top priority.

This love requires us to pray for those who are hurting and those who hurt, to rely on God for guidance, wisdom, and strength, and to stand in unity against the evil that feeds racism, which is rooted in a false sense of superiority.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus affirms that indifference is sin. He commends the Good Samaritan for having mercy on his fellow man and commands His disciples to “go and do likewise” (v. 37).

Loving our neighbors is showing mercy, a commandment not an option, if we follow Christ.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2:8-9)

Ambassadors of Christ can . . . must speak out against injustice with courageous faith.

Through forgiveness and unity, we can begin a wave of healing that begins within our homes and extends into our communities, in person and online.

Radical forgiveness diminishes the power of hate.

As we’ve explored over the last four weeks of this series, it’s important to understand what forgiveness is and isn’t, as we move toward healing in the power of Christ’s life-transforming love.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are intimate exchanges between us and God, requiring a process that doesn’t always lead to the restoration of relationship or guarantee an offender’s change of heart.

But as we pray for our offenders, asking God to overwhelm them with His life-transforming love, and yes . . . asking God to forgive them . . . we can be freed through forgiving, as we’ve been forgiven by Christ.

We can place the offenders in God’s trustworthy hands.

We can rely on God’s just and merciful love to work in and through the most painful circumstances, and even change the most hardened of hearts . . . just as He continues to change our often stubborn and hardened hearts through His loving grace.

Once the Lord helps us process our emotions and rise above resentment and bitterness, He can empower us to pray for those who persecute and hurt us, as we battle hate with love . . . knowing love prevails because God Himself is love.

Grief comes in waves, and the road toward change and healing will not be easy or short.

But as we stand together, we can celebrate the beautiful diversity of those God created and loves, even those who do not love Him.

Besides making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), this is our mission, our purpose as Christ followers:

To pray continually and depend on the Lord completely, as we love Him and all people with our words and actions, regardless of how we differ or disagree in beliefs . . .

To love all people as Christ loves us, because He first loved us . . .

To love all people by speaking up and inciting peace as we refuse to tolerate or ignore any act of injustice, violence, hate, racism, or discrimination . . .

And yes, even by embracing radical forgiveness as we forgive those who have not yet been forever changed by the love of Christ.

Lord, thank You for loving us, forgiving us, and empowering us to love and forgive others.

As we watch the atrocities unfolding right before our eyes and grieve over the blatant hatred destroying lives, it is ever apparent that we cannot get through this without You, Lord.

Please help us place hate-filled offenders in Your hands, praying for them to be so impacted by Your love that they will be forever changed, like Paul, who once persecuted the Church then became a mighty advocate of love and forgiveness as He followed You and shared Your truth wherever You led him.

Yes, Lord, help us forgive first, so that we can be freed to make a difference in our world by refusing to be indifferent.

As we rest in the peace of Your constant presence, please empower us to seek peace, celebrate diversity as we stand in unity, and love selflessly and generously, like the Good Samaritan . . . all the days of our lives, starting today.

 In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Photo taken and used with permission by Begona Maier.

Meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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Radical Forgiveness is Possible

MEME - Radical Forgiveness Trusts God to Pour Out JusticeI started this blog series as an act of obedience and a search for guidance, discernment, courage, and healing. God’s been working in ways that haven’t led to paths I expected to walk.

I’ve chosen to forgive, though reconciliation wasn’t always possible.

I’ve forgiven offenders who continued to excuse and deny their wrong actions, who chose to cast blame rather than take responsibility for their hurtful behaviors.

Through my studies over the last few weeks, I’ve come to realize radical forgiveness is an intimate exchange between God and me that has nothing to do with my offender.

When I truly trust the Lord, I believe He will work all things out for the good of all who love Him . . . all . . . not just little ol’ selfish me.

“We all want mercy for ourselves but judgement for others.” (Total Forgiveness, R.T. Kendall, p. 102)

The retribution principle‒demanding payback when wronged‒is evident in the psalms.

But Jesus turned that natural bend toward seeking vengeance upside down and inside out when He commanded us to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive as we’ve been forgiven.

Radical forgiveness requires us to go against our instinct and release the hurt and let God handle the judging and everything else.

When I first read the parable of the prodigal son, I ignored the part of the story that demonstrated the importance of letting go. I zeroed in on the running away, related to the wicked young man who demanded his inheritance because he wanted to gratify his sinful nature (Luke 15:11-16).

I’ve been there, not literally, but stuck in the mud and surrounded by the slop I’d created by my sinful choices.

Scripture says the son “came to his senses” and returned to his father, humbled and ready to repent. The image of the father running to his son exemplifies God’s grace in action (vv. 17-20).

I’ve been there, too, ready to repent and return to my heavenly Father. He met me with open arms. He didn’t shame me, demand explanations, or force me to live a life of penance.

So why do I and many others struggle with letting our offenders off the hook, even when they sincerely apologize?

When the prodigal son severed the ties with his family, his father let him go without trying to change his mind. Even though the father was hurt, he gave his son what he wanted and released him into his heavenly Father’s hands (v. 12).

Scripture says the father saw his son when he was “still a long way off” (vv. 20-21). He was looking out for him, waiting for him, probably praying for him, and most likely missing him.

Even though his child had wounds that needed healing, bad habits that needed breaking, behaviors and attitudes that needed changing, the father simply rejoiced in his son’s decision to return to his house and submit to his authority (vv. 21-24).

Without hesitation, the father wiped the slate clean and welcomed his wandering child back into his loving arms. The son hadn’t lost his place in the father’s heart or home (vv. 22-24).

Radical forgiveness. What a gift worth celebrating!

When we’re hurt by the poor decisions of others, especially when the offenders are people we care about, we often try to hold on, refusing to place them in God’s hands, which hurts more than helps.

Radical forgiveness often begins with letting go, giving God the chance to do the great work He has planned for us and our offenders.

As we discussed last week, reconciliation is not a requirement in a life devoted to radical forgiveness.

Sometimes it’s better and safer for us that relationships are severed, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Sometimes the prodigals don’t return. Sometimes the people who hurt us don’t repent. Sometimes offenders don’t seem to get the punishment we think they should receive.

Sometimes, we forget God’s sufficient grace is offered to all people because He wants none to perish.

It’s still hard for me to want forgiveness for those who commit atrocities against innocent people, especially children. But I’ve learned my responsibility and my ability to control don’t extend past my personal space. This boundary frees me to let God be God.

I don’t need to lose sleep when others hurt me or choose to remain in sin, because God will remain true to His Word and His character. He will make all things known and bring all things to account in His timing and in His way.

Radical forgiveness is trusting God to do what He promises, believing His grace is sufficient, and depending on the surety that His mercy and justice are His to pour out as He sees fit.

Yes, radical forgiveness is possible . . . because nothing is impossible with God.

Lord, thank You for loving us in our frailty, for giving us the courage and faith to trust You and rely on You, so we can experience the freedom of forgiveness, whether we need to forgive or we’re the ones who need forgiving. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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