Friday, August 14, 2015

How Quickly We Forget

A few weeks ago, the nation was shocked at the senseless murders of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The next day, many were shocked at the forgiveness extended to the shooter by the families of those killed. The shooter, Dylann Roof, carried out his crime in an effort to start a race war. While there was not widespread violence in the country immediately afterward, I fear that, in some way, the killer succeeded.

We seem to have forgotten what we saw that day when the families forgave the man who had so brutally taken their loved ones from them. What we saw was the result of the gospel. Those who realized they had been forgiven much, forgave much. The media and many of the politicians noted what was an extraordinary event, and then moved on. Moved on to the controversy surrounding the decisions to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capital in South Carolina and from other public buildings as well as stores and on-line marketplaces. Those decisions brought out rebel flags by the thousands, by those who believed it was their right to fly the flag regardless of what others may think or feel. Add that to the already tense climate caused by a number of police involved shootings (both as shooters and as victims). It seems as if the divide between the races has been widening in recent weeks. There is much rhetoric by people on either extreme that is designed to keep things stirred up. Very little is said about coming together in a spirit of  reconciliation to attempt some healing. There is not a great deal said about having a necessary hard conversation about the state of things in this country. It seems that the majority is simply interested in proving that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

I can understand the lack of desire for forgiveness and reconciliation from those who do not claim to follow Jesus. Those concepts are foreign in a world that tells us to demand our rights, to fight back, to make sure the other gets what's coming to them. What pains me is the number of people who claim the name of Christ and carry on in the same manner as those who don't. If an individual claims to be a Christian, why would they post on social media things that tell others that they are going to continue to fly the flag, or whatever action that their "side" is taking, regardless of what others may think, forgetting that some of those they may be offending are their brothers and sisters in Christ. I really don't believe that is something that shows others the love of Christ. We of all people should be at the forefront of attempts to bring reconciliation. We should be the first to, in the words of Jeremiah, "Seek the peace and prosperity" of our city. Maybe we have no interest in reconciliation outside of our immediate area because we have not practiced it in our families or churches. It's far to easy for us to simply uproot ourselves and leave family or church, and not attempt the hard work of repenting, forgiving, and reconciling.

All this is in spite of clear commands from the One we claim to follow. Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies, forgive those who sin against us, seek to be forgiven by those we sin against, and seek reconciliation and peace with others. We are called to love others as Jesus loved us. In fact, love and forgiveness are so important that they are the distinguishing marks of a Christian. Jesus said that it is those who are forgiven much who love much. I don't know about you, but I certainly have been forgiven much. When we think of the lengths our Father went to in order to reconcile us to himself, how can we do anything less than forgive and seek reconciliation?

Scripture says that judgement begins at the house of God. It's time we take a look at ourselves.

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