Monday, September 14, 2015

The Greatest of These Is Love

image used under Creative Commons license, 
photo by Howard Arnoff, from Flickr
Wow!  And, again, wow!  I'll explain that reaction.  Although this is posted near the Fall, part of it was written in the week or so after the church shooting in Charleston, SC.  I'm not going to be supporting my thoughts with a lot of appropriate verses.  This isn't a Biblically scholarly piece. It's heart to heart writing. From God's heart to mine and from my heart to yours.  Do you remember what Joseph said to his brothers, when they came to Egypt seeking food?

Genesis 50:20 (KJV)  But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Dylann Roof intended evil with what he did in Charleston.  And yet, there's so much more that can come out of this.  Some already has.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (KJV)  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

If you saw the TV coverage of the bail hearing for Dylann Roof, there was one thing that was exceptional.  In South Carolina, relatives of the victims can speak at a bail hearing.  What I found exceptional was the fact that every one of them offered Mr Roof forgiveness and the hope he would find salvation.  Any Christian watching would have been blown away by how Biblically right on that was.  And the world was flabbergasted by it.  It reflects a pretty amazing mindset.

Oswald Chambers, in the June 20 devotional of My Utmost for His Highest, wrote this:  

"But I cannot make myself right with God; I cannot make my life perfect.  I can only be right with God if I accept the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ as an absolute gift.  Am I humble enough to accept it?  I have to surrender all my rights and demands, and cease from every self-effort, I must leave myself completely alone in His hands, and then I can begin to pour my life out in the priestly work of intercession.".

Then there were the relatives of the deceased, you could hear the anguish and pain in their voices. Yet they forgave.  No, we're not going to take what they did and turn it into a "how to" article. There's no "look at me. I can do that, too.".  Neither one of those is anywhere close to right.  But it fits what Oswald Chambers said.  Until we fully accept that salvation is the Lord's (Psalm 3:8, Jonah 2:9), we have no real standard by which to forgive.  Either forgiving others or forgiving ourselves.

Our ministry held its annual international convention shortly after.  And, like me, my head pastor was taken with that response of forgiveness.  Enough so that he commented about it multiple times and even played a clip for our congregation of the statements of forgiveness.

Oswald Chambers described it perfectly.  It's our voluntary complete surrender to God that opens the floodgates of blessing.  That forgiveness wouldn't be possible without it.  At the same time, a lack of forgiveness could have prevented some of that blessing.  That realization brought some thoughts to mind.
  1. Emanuel AME church is a place where I'd be comfortable.  The folks there are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It's what's on the inside that counts.
  2. The most important thing in a believer's life is their relationship with Christ.  So:
  3. That church had a huge loss with the death of eight of its members, plus a ninth, Pastor Clementa Pinckney.  But
  4. They gained more than most people understand by that forgiveness.
Unforgiveness does a number of things.  It can focus on the sin or the sinning person.  Or it may focus on the person sinned against.  Sometimes those two may be the same individual.  No matter what, it gets in the way of our focus on God.  And it distracts us from the realization that we are the recipients of God's grace, peace, mercy, and love.

By forgiving Dylann Roof, those people were truly following Christ.  And they got rid of a load of baggage that interfered with that relationship.  The result being blessing from God that otherwise would have been blocked by wrong attitudes.

So, what do you want, today?  Will you seek retribution for real or imagined hurts?  Or will you be a forgiver and a true Christ follower?

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