I hope it hasn’t been too long since you said or thought these words. Part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus is to live with our eyes wide open. Life isn’t boring. We don’t need to be dependent upon others to entertain us. There is wonder all around us if we are open to seeing it.
One of the wonders of life is how God calls us to do things we would probably never dream of doing if it were left up to us. Things like loving our enemies and praying for them, refusing to repay evil for evil but pursuing peace instead. Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 5:43-48 and Paul does the same in Romans 12:17-21. It’s heady, visionary teaching that is not for the faint of heart. More to the point, it was lived out by both Jesus and Paul so they didn’t just talk about this as if it would be a courageous thing to aspire to—they lived it out under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.
When the Gulf War started in 1990, we were living in Sumter, South Carolina. Shaw Air Force Base is located there. We had several military families in the congregation and a few who were in the reserves. One Sunday morning our time together was devoted to praying for the men and women who would be part of Operation Desert Storm. I’ll never forget one of the men got up and prayed specifically for Saddam Hussein. If you don’t know or remember, he was the leader of Iraq—the country the coalition forces would be fighting against. He asked that God would forgive Him and help him come to faith in Jesus. I’d never heard anyone pray for their enemy before. And sadly, I can count on one hand, maybe two, the times I’ve heard anyone do it since then. If we are serious about our prayers being shaped by Scripture this is something that we need to do.
Recently a man stood up in a federal courtroom to read a letter. It was addressed to the defendant who was being sentenced to twenty years in prison for selling drugs that led to the death of the man’s twenty-year-old daughter. The letter talked about his daughter’s choice to get involved with drugs and how it ended up costing her life. It also talked about the defendant’s decision to sell his daughter drugs with no concern for that life. Then it said this:
By God’s love and grace we are saved and forgiven. Forgiveness does not right right a wrong, but it frees us from the bondage of that wrong. It also does not free you from the consequences of sin here on earth, but it allows you to be right with God . . . You need to know that we do not hold any ill feelings toward you as a person created by God. We extend forgiveness to you for the wrongs against our family in the same way that Christ has forgiven our wrongs . . . We neither hate nor condemn you in any way, but hope that through your conviction you will seek your own personal forgiveness from God.
One of the U. S. attorneys who was prosecuting the case said he never seen that before. My guess is that he spoke for most people in that courtroom.
Wouldn’t it be great if God’s people lived in such a way so that when others saw and experienced such acts of love, mercy and forgiveness we wouldn’t hear them or anyone else say, “I’ve never seen that before?”