By Chris WittsThursday 10 Oct 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
Dr Tony Campolo is well known in Christian circles. He’s a Baptist minister and popular speaker and author. He’s preached and spoken to thousands of people around the world. He tells what happened one Sunday in a church in New Jersey where he was preaching. As he stood in the pulpit,he looked down at the congregation and saw an angry looking woman staring up at him. Then he looked to the other side and there was another woman looking the same. They were identical. Tony asked the deacon about them…”yes,they’re twin sisters” he said. “But they’re sitting on opposite sides of the church. Have they had a disagreement?” “Yes” was the reply. “How long has this been going on?” Tony asked. “23 years.” “It’s a good thing they don’t live together.” But the deacon replied “But,they do.” They lived in the same home but never spoke to each other after 23 years of falling out. Tony Campolo never did get to speak to the 2 ladies,but if he had,he probably would have heard statement like this…”I’m willing to forgive my sister,but in the 23 years since this thing happened,she’s never once asked for forgiveness. How can you forgive somebody if that somebody doesn’t ask for forgiveness?” What happened here is very sad,but a fact of life. Each sister waited for the other to take the initiative.
This is where we look at Jesus for the great example. He modelled forgiveness. Jesus actually took the initiative. He didn’t wait for us to come to Him – He came to us – the Bible tells me that while we in our sin,He came to us and offered reconciliation and He offered us forgiveness. He did not wait for us to come to Him. If you know the Lord’s Prayer,there’s a part that says…”Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Then at the end of the prayer Jesus said these difficult words…”If you forgive others their trespasses,so will God forgive you your trespasses. But if you refuse to forgive one another,neither will you be forgiven.”
We live with people and we work with them. Things will go wrong sometimes because we’re human. So,we need to come to grips with the fact that we must assume responsibility for what’s gone wrong. It’s quite rare for a leader to admit to his/her mistakes…we seem to have a real problem taking responsibility for our actions and acknowledging this publicly. “Never apologise and never explain,” John Wayne growled in his 1949 movie “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”. Usually people respect you more if you acknowledge any failure or mistakes. But what if you did nothing wrong? I’m not responsible you say – but take another look at Jesus – He hung on a rough wooden cross – it appeared He was a criminal and was taking the punishment. He became the guilty one,when in fact He was (and still is),the perfect Son of God who never sinned. Read the gospel stories for yourself and you’ll see it spelt out. When He hung on the cross,He took upon Himself,my sin,my guilt. He made Himself the guilty One in order to make us innocent. “By His stripes we are healed.” Says the Bible – this is transformation like no other!
Id there is to be reconciliation between families (like the 2 sisters who never spoke for 23 years),we have to make the first move. It will not be easy,but we can ask God for His help and His empowering. His Spirit living in you will help you.
Tony Campolo tells of another remarkable day when he was asked to speak at a peace rally in Northern Ireland. There were real problems between the Catholics and Protestants then – struggles had gone on for hundreds of years – there was anger and violence. When he got to the hall,he noticed how the chairs were arranged. On one side the chairs faced the centre for the Protestants. On the other side,seats were kept for the Catholics. Tony was worried. “Oh,my goodness,they can’t even get together for a pace rally.” One man stood and said “I’m a Protestant – over the years I’ve hated Catholics. I’ve despised them and done terrible things to them. Will you forgive me?” And the Catholics on the other side said in one voice “in the name of Jesus,we forgive you.” Men on the Catholic side said “I’ve done terrible things. I’ve been a terrorist – I was a member of the IRA – I set off bombs. I’m asking you for forgiveness.” And the Protestants with one voice said “We forgive you.” This went back and forth for an hour. One man was in a wheelchair without any legs. “I’ve always hated Protestants,but when I turned on the ignition of my car and a bomb went off,I lost me legs. I hated them so much I wanted to kill them. But my priest prayed with me and I invited the Spirit of Jesus to come in and He has transformed me. I have forgiven the man who did this to me.”