By Chris WittsSaturday 26 Oct 2013Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 0 minutes
To be feet away from a suicide bomber would be anyone’s worst nightmare. And yet that’s what happened on 7 July 2005 near Kings Cross station in London. Australian born Gill Hicks was on the underground tube train on her way to work as a magazine editor in London when the unthinkable happened. A bomb exploded that morning in a packed carriage and Gill thought she had died. But she miraculously survived but both her legs had to be amputated. 26 people died and others were injured,and Jill was the last survivor to be pulled out. The doctors told her husband she would not survive.
This is a shocking event,but did you know that Jill has forgiven the attacker for her terrible injuries? She said she wishes she could have looked him in the eyes to say ‘I am not your enemy,I wish you no hard. I am a person,a human being like you.’ “I could have chosen to let hatred for this act,and for the person who committed it,consume me,” she said. “But I didn’t. From the moment I was given the option of choosing life,I made a vow: if I did survive I would live a full life,a good and rich life. I vowed I would never again take anything for granted”. These inspiring words were heard by 45 million people across the United States on the Oprah Winfrey TV show. She said he felt no hatred for this person in London,and Winfrey called her a hero. And she certainly is that!
You may be saying to yourself “I could never forgive like that. It would be impossible. I would want some kind of revenge”. Maybe you remember the news story of a group of prisoners that escaped in Texas and in their rampage killed a police officer in the process. At the murder trial,the police officer’s wife was able to stand at the end of the trial process and confront her husband’s murderer. “I don’t forgive you. I will never forgive you. And I will be there when you die,just like you were there when my husband died. I will never forgive you.” It was just chilling and powerful. And who could blame her? It is extremely difficult to forgive in those circumstances. It isn’t easy… It’s always costly. And there’ll always be a need to bring to God our difficulty in forgiving other people,to reflect on how God has forgiven us,and to ask for his help in forgiving others. We can reflect on Jesus being nailed to the cross,and even while the nails were being hammered in through his hands and feet,he prayed,”Father,forgive them.” We may find it very hard to love our enemies,but we can remember that God loves them,as he loves us,and we can ask God to give us some of the love he has for them. The movie “Dead Man Walking” tells the true story of how an unsuspecting Catholic nun became the spiritual director of a death row inmate. Throughout the movie,this prisoner,who was convicted of the brutal murder of a young couple,appears to be a sick and repulsive human being. Yet this nun,Sister Prejean,continues to show love and patience with him and finally she leads him to an act of contrition and penance. As a result he said to the parents of his victims “I hope my death gives you some peace”. One of the parents refuses to forgive,but the father of the young man was not as hardened. He said to the nun “I wish I had your faith”,and she said “It’s not faith. It’s a lot of hard work”. And forgiveness is hard because it doesn’t come naturally.
When we forgive evil we do not excuse it,we do not tolerate it,we do not smother it. We look evil full in the face,call it what it is,let its honour shock and enrage us,and only then can we forgive. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. The Bible tells us God forgives humanity and God expects us to forgive each other. Philip Yancy,who is one of the best popular writers on the Bible and theology,says that forgiveness is “an unnatural act.” It is unnatural to forgive because at the heart of forgiveness is sin,betrayal,and wrongdoing.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. I’m not sure that the old saying,”forgive and forget” is even possible. Humans seem to have amazing memories about things that have been done to us. But even it were possible,to forget cheapens the sin. If we don’t remember sin,it will certainly be repeated.
Forgiveness is also not something we do occasionally. In Christian terms,forgiveness is a way of life. The great Reformation leader,Martin Luther,said,”Forgiveness is not an occasional art; it is a permanent attitude.” Forgiveness is not something we can do on our own. Prayer and the grace of God fuel forgiveness. Only God’s grace is powerful enough to break the chains of guilt,anger,and resentment. But God-fuelled forgiveness can change each of us and the whole world.