Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Difficult to forgive
Anyone who has visited the Tuol Sleng museum cannot help but be moved by the horror and the suffering that went on in that place. The deadened eyes from the old yellowed photos stare at you almost pleadingly...
It is difficult to forgive. It must be so difficult for those who have lost loved ones to the evilness of that brutal regime.
But the Gospel of Matthew reported that once Peter had asked Jesus about forgiveness:
'Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.' Matthew 18:21-22.
Seventy seven times? But then, I argue to myself...that's different, that's about forgiving your brother. There is something quite different when it comes to forgiving your enemy..someone who has raped your mother, wife or daughter...slaughtered your family. Surely it must be different?
At times like this, I hardly want to remember that Jesus came for such people. Sinners. Not the righteous. He came for those outside of the family. Those who would betray him. Those liars, cheats, robbers, rapists and murderers. To bring them into his family. Sinners like me.
But He did. Even when He was dying on the cross, He still had the Grace to forgive. This is our God. And this is what He expects of us.
The Apostle Paul was an obsessive persecutor of the early church, responsible for the imprisonment and deaths of many of the early Christians. Paul himself confessed to how he "persecuted without mercy, the church of God and tried my best to destroy it". And on the road, Jesus challenged him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
There was no reason for the early Christians to forgive Paul, even after he repented. They were certainly still suspicious and wary of his conversion. Yet they clearly found the Grace to forgive him. And he subsequently became the greatest of the Apostles.
Can we find the grace to forgive? We must.
Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, and who must have witnessed countless atrocities not unlike those at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, said, "Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you."
The Khmer Rouge has been destroyed, but the Cambodians remain imprisoned.