Devotional: We’re supposed to be different

Published 3:29 pm Saturday, November 11, 2023

As much fun as it would be to run for president, I have to tell you that it will never happen for me. Inevitably, I would be expected to take actions that I could not in good faith do, primarily sanctioning the taking of human life. Even though it is human nature to retaliate when we are wronged, to destroy our enemies, and to hold grudges, there is a different nature that is our hope and salvation. Not only are we supposed to be different but radically so. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, I was all for going to war against terrorist threats. The injury was visceral for many of us; the outrage was tangible. I wanted justice – only we never saw justice. 

Jesus could have demanded justice as he struggled to the place of his execution in Luke 23. No one had a greater cause for complaint, and that sentiment does not really come close to the reality. Still, he did not waver. He did not hesitate. He did not object. What he did do was forgive. Here (23:34) is where we find his great pronouncement of forgiveness, beseeching God on behalf of the Romans, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Turns out that God loves Romans, too. Even through Rome is the great beast in Revelation and evil incarnate in that day, God loves Romans, too. Thanks to Paul and the Spirit, the gospel did well enough there in the decades following.

Jesus gave the Romans who were executing him in that very moment what I was also missing in 2001 – forgiveness. And not just the regular “I’m sorry, please forgive me” kind but he offered the radical, world changing forgiveness. Honestly, following the 9/11 attacks, the most faithful response would have been to forgive those who carried it out. Instead, decades of war have left us much poorer in so many ways. It might have seemed impossible to take such a bold action. Certainly, it would have been unpopular, even politically ending. At the end of the day, would you rather live in a world that is ordered by “an eye for an eye” or “turn the other cheek?” That is an easy answer for followers of Christ. Call me a dreamer, unrealistic, or foolish. What I know is that forgiveness is at the heart of our life in God. Next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer, ask yourself if you mean to be forgiven by God as you have forgiven others. Forgiveness is both the easiest and hardest thing to do. It takes letting go of things that we have held with both fists for many years, but on the other hand, no one can stop us. We are freed to be most like God in this one way – the freedom to forgive. The world needs more forgiveness, better forgiveness, forgiveness that even seems impossible. Bullets, bombs, and force will never change hearts. Love through forgiveness will. 

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Rev. Dr. Peter Smith is the pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at pastorfpc@centurylink.net.