Practicing what you preach can sometimes be a very difficult and painful proposition. I learned that this past Sunday in what became a tricky test of my character.
But, more on that in a minute.
I first want to reflect upon the senseless tragedy that occurred this summer when 21-year-old Dylann Roof murdered nine people at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June. Concerning the victims’ families, I don’t think anyone could blame them for wanting to see the perpetrator fry in the electric chair. It’s a natural response—an eye for an eye.
Instead, members of those families whose relatives’ lives were prematurely taken at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have chosen to publicly forgive the 21-year-old Roof. That despite the fact that Roof has shown little or no remorse for his heinous crimes.
That begs the question—is Roof’s soul even worth saving? Why even bother?
The answer is a resounding yes, and for one simple reason: 2 Peter 3:9, which says, “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (MEV).
God displayed patience with David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer, whom I wrote about last week. Berkowitz will be incarcerated for life, but he accepted Christ in 1987 and is now helping to get souls saved in prison. That’s more than many of us on the outside can say.
I can’t even imagine the pain and suffering the families of the Charleston shooting victims have been put through. They will continue to grieve for quite some time, I am sure. If someone would happen to hurt my wife or my children in such a manner, I can’t fathom the bitterness and anger I would feel toward them.
But then, think about what Jesus said while hanging on a Roman cross after suffering much physical pain and humiliation: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, MEV).
Could I display the same capacity to forgive? Let me explain what happened to me Sunday.
My wife is a member of a local trading post page on Facebook. We had been looking to buy a laptop for a reduced price, and she found one on the page for $100. We’re not a wealthy family by any means and are trying to be frugal. My wife made the appropriate contacts, and we decided to meet the person selling it at a local Panera.
We arrived and the young girl seemed pleasant enough. She had turned the laptop on, and with the WiFi at Panera, it appeared as if it were working properly. Although I don’t know much about computers, I thought I had checked it out thoroughly enough. I questioned how old it was, and the girl said it was two years old. She said she had only used it to write college papers. She was selling it because she had gotten another one for a “graduation present.”
When I got the laptop home, however, I began to notice that it had all kinds of errors. And, for some reason, the browser wouldn’t stay connected. I tried to work with it for more than an hour, but to no avail. Needless to say, I became angry and frustrated. I wanted restitution. I gave into my flesh and began maligning the young woman’s character and wanted her head. And, yes, I even cursed. Lord God, I beg your forgiveness.
However, I cannot blame anyone but myself for not being more thorough. I failed miserably with caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
Now, let me say that in no way am I comparing what happened to me Sunday to Christ’s crucifixion or the Charleston shooting. My $100 that I simply threw to the wind can’t hold a candle to either one of those situations. Although we can’t afford to waste money like that, it’s a minor annoyance at best, comparatively.
The principle, however, is the same, and that’s why I’m up at 3:30 a.m. writing this. After sleeping a few hours on it, Jesus seared my heart and told me to I needed to forgive the young woman, to show her some grace although she may have little or no remorse for her actions. After all, “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, MEV).
Remember Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers? Do you remember his reaction when he saw them again years later?
Praise God the Lord has forgiven me for seemingly unforgivable transgressions of which I have repented.
“Lord, I ask You now to forgive this young woman and turn her heart to You. Let her seek You and find You. Save her soul. And please forgive me for my angry thoughts and words. Forgive me for blowing my witness to my family.”
Is there any unforgiveness in your heart that you need to unburden to God? I pray you rid yourself of such venom. It only hurts you. Believe me, I know.
“For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:2, MEV).
And as I always like to say, “there is that.”
Shawn A. Akers is the online managing editor at Charisma Media. He is a published poet and published a story about Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can read his blog here. To sign up for his newsletter, “Step Out of the Boat,” and other Charisma newsletters, click here.