2010-08-12 - Forgiving Can Be Hard
Luke 23:34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing " And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. (NASB)
This week a group of ten, including doctors from several nations and two Afghans, were stopped by ten men with machine guns in Afghanistan on their way to a medical mission post in a very remote and poor area. Their goal was to provide free medical eye care. Of the ten, nine were executed for teaching Christianity. The organization that had sent them flatly dismissed the claim. Their rules prohibit teaching so that their medical mission to the people they serve would not be stopped by the Afghan government or offend any of the strict Muslims people in area. At least one of the party was not a believer. The only survivor is a native Afghan Muslim spared by the armed militants who accepted him as a true Muslim.
Their families and friends have all suffered a very tragic loss. The members of the team all knew there was a risk in what they were doing. There is undoubtedly very understandable sorrow and anger aimed at the attackers for the murder of their loved ones. I found it very interesting that in the dismissal of the claims that the medical party were carrying Bibles to give away that there was no reviling condemnation. In one interview with one of the younger doctor's parents there was only sorrow expressed at the loss of their bright and talented daughter.
God has surrounded me with themes of forgiveness for a few weeks now. I can not imagine one of my sons being killed in such a way and not being furious at the injustice and loss. I honestly can not even put myself into that mindset for more than a few minutes. I'm sure that is no reflection at all of the awfulness of the reality the parents, family and friends of the nine victims are facing. The parents certainly have poured their lives into getting their sons and daughters to this point and suddenly - in the blink of an eye - they are gone from this life.
How does one reach inside and forgive this kind of cruel and unjust act?
Jesus was our example asking forgiveness to the soldiers, accusers and mockers surrounding Him on the cross at Calvary. He could have called legions of angels to destroy the world and set Himself free and be just in doing so. But He chose instead to forgive - everyone - past, present and future. With nails in His hands and feet and a crown of four inch thorns pressed into His head, He took on the offense that was ours, our sin, in front of the Father and forgave us. During those three hours of darkness that afternoon the Father turned His back on the Son because he could not look at sin.
Pray for the families and friends who have suffered this terrible loss - that those who believe will be strengthed and those who do not will be open to the Gospel. Pray for the one man who was spared that the life witness of the believers he traveled with will have an impact. He may not have heard the teaching of Christianity, but he saw Christianity in practice.
The last one is hardest of all. What I'm about to say does not mean there is no earthly penalty for what was done. Pray for the militants and the organization that sent them that they will come to know the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us to, "pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you;" (Matt 5:43-45 KJV). They truly have no idea what they have done. They are people Christ died to save. If they die without Christ they will stand for their actions with no way of escape for eternity. We who know salvation have been forgiven more than we know - past, present and future and we stand in Christ alone. We should want that same for them.
Grace & Peace,