Forgiveness is a tricky thing.
I can forgive my wife of forgetting to purchase deodorant or conditioner for my beard but can I forgive the person who stole from me? I can forgive my children for almost anything, but could I forgive a person for harming my children? For most of us, the experience of forgiveness is based on a prior relationship of love or at the very least friendship.
Yes, I can forgive those I love but can I forgive those I hate and fear?
This is where the teachings of Jesus meet our humanness straight on.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to forgive so we too can be forgiven by our Heavenly Father (Matt 6:14-15) as though our willingness to forgive is tied to our ability to be forgiven. One may wonder if Jesus was naïve, he did tell us to love our enemies (Matt 5:44). Yet to accuse Jesus of being naïve is to forget the cross, the torture, the pain and his words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
But how can you and I forgive when our innocence has been stolen, our loved ones harmed, our lives destroyed by the act of another and our heart crushed?
Here in lies the beauty of the Christian faith.
Christianity is not moralism, nor is it a pep talk for moralism but rather it is the power to live as a new kind of human. And where does this power come from? An old Prophet named Zechariah told us, “So he said to me… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord almighty”.
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It is the Spirit who gives us the power to forgive. We just need to be willing to obey.
Most of you know the story of Amber Guyger, the police officer who shot and killed Botham Jean in his own home. Guyger was convicted and will be serving time for this horrible and painful act. But the story did not end with hopelessness nor did it end with a feeling of empty justice. God empowered a young man with the Holy Spirit to speak to Amber and to show forth the beauty of God’s forgiveness to her. I will allow Bandt Jean the brother of Botham to speak for himself.
Speaking directly to Amber Guyger after her conviction Bandt said,
“I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that. But I just…I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I speak for myself, I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say, I’m speaking for myself…but I love you just like everyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, I personally want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but, I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do and the best would be to give your life to Christ… I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
Bandt ended his statement by embracing Amber in a beautiful hug.
The Christian faith is not powerful because it teaches what to do and what not to do. The power of the Christian faith is the Spirit of God whom Jesus poured out on all His followers. We do not serve a dead God but a living King, one who gave to us His very Spirit to empower us to be a new kind of human. His Spirit gives us the power of love and forgiveness.
It is through the Spirit that your life can be transformed, our world can be made new and our walls of division can be broken down. It is not by might or your power but by the Spirit of the Lord.