I am a hopeful person. I have this hope because of the Lord God, Jesus Christ our Savior, and the Holy Spirit who dwell within me. Hope brings much joy and peace which are awesome ‘benefits’ of that theological virtue! But amidst my hope these days, I find it increasingly difficult to find Christ in the culture. I do see it in some people and in some circumstances, but it’s getting tougher every day. And if we don’t have people modeling what Christ commissioned us to do, how will anyone learn about Him, or God’s unfathomable love for us, or the grace and the mercy He wants to shower upon us? It’s our job as Christians. Daunting? Could be. Scary? Sometimes, especially these days with the current climate of intolerance of the beliefs of others. Possible? Yes, with God’s grace!
As a Christian, I wish there were, in our culture, more respect for others who are all made in the image and likeness of God. I am looking for it everywhere, even in myself, and finding little comfort and lots of concern because it is scarce. And so I write these thoughts to encourage and remind myself as much as anybody reading this. The distinctly unChristian tenor of most speech I hear today disturbs my heart greatly. How about yours? OK, so if you’re not a Christian, let’s say the contempt I see and hear in so many others’ words and actions disturbs me. How about you?
I would like to see more Christian ministers preach Christ as our revered St. Paul does in Scripture. What Christians should expect from their spiritual leaders, especially among those who feel slighted or even oppressed by another group, what we should expect to be preached often on a Sunday morning is forgiveness. Christ crucified, Christ on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” A reminder that the resurrected Christ is our hope of salvation – in a glorious life for us in the world to come is the rest of that Gospel message.
But the event that clearly illustrates what our God expects of us can be seen on the cross at Calvary. And that scene can be at least an allegory that teaches a lesson to anyone, even non-believers. I pray fervently that those who don’t believe will come to the Truth one day, but either way, I still love you. If you don’t know Jesus, I pray you’ll meet Him in the life of someone you know or will meet. I can’t not want that for you. I have found so much joy, peace, grace, forgiveness, mercy and love so of course I want that for you. No judgments here, just a keen desire for you to know true happiness. But that’s a theme for another time…
When asked by His followers, “Rabbi, teach us how to pray,” Jesus gives us all the Lord’s Prayer which includes the very challenging words to live, “Forgive us our trespasses (or transgressions) as we forgive the who trespass against us.” And if we took those words to heart for the sake of peace and understanding of the one who is in opposition to us, everyone involved today in the uncivil discourse and worse would seek, ask for, forgiveness from their aggrieved brothers and sisters. Likewise, they would forgive any transgressions they’ve experienced at the hands of those from whom they seek forgiveness. Only then can healing begin.
Asking for forgiveness is a humbling act. But once again, the God-man who hung on the cross showed us, as always, by example, that humility is holy. Humility exalts us in the end. We are set free when we humbly ask for forgiveness and are forgiven. Even when you feel you’ve done nothing wrong, if the other party involved feels you’ve hurt them, you should apologize. A sincere, “I’m sorry I hurt you,” are incredibly powerful words.
Relationship, which is what we’re called to have with Christ and one another in my faith tradition, means putting the other ahead of our own interests. That’s a fairly good definition of love, by the way. If preachers of all denominations and all backgrounds preached forgiveness, preached the sanctity of humility, preached asking for God’s grace to ask for and receive forgiveness from our Creator and the created, then we’d find ourselves prepared to begin the dialogue so desperately needed among people of every diverse circumstance. And we could begin to heal the wounds in our collective heart, psyche, and soul.
Arthur Brooks wrote an awesome book entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” in which he discusses the many ways we can learn to show love instead of contempt to others. And it’s wonderful. I love it. But reconciliation must include forgiveness.
It’s not our President’s job, or anyone in government’s, responsibility, thank God. It’s for all of us to take on the task of building a place of peace, patience, a community, of love. You people of faith out there, and even those of you who don’t believe in God, (which I find tragic, but I still love you), and you who have your doubts about God, the example of Christ who is Love and Mercy personified, can still be instructive.
But to those who do believe in a loving God who is with us, we have to do better. As a Christian, I have to be Christ for others and I must pray to see Christ in the human beings God created and with whom I come in contact every day. I do pray for my “enemies,” but probably not often enough. I try to fast for their conversion, too, but probably not consistently enough. I’m praying for our spiritual leaders, too, to do what Christ modeled for us. Even if you’re not a Christian, it’s a beautiful example. Wisdom and humility are required by our spiritual leaders, as well, to move us forward. Let us be like Jesus Christ, who never asked anyone to do anything He wasn’t doing or going to do Himself. That’s leadership. It is rare, though not completely lacking, at this point. Please, fellow Christians, join me in that prayer for the sake of us all.