“You want us to do what, Lord? Love and forgive our enemies?” We, as followers of Christ Jesus, are called upon to live our lives with the same compassion as He did. That is one hard row to hoe. Christ expects us to forgive and to pray for those who have hurt us. “What?” Yes, the call of the disciples of Christ (that’s us, if we call ourselves Christians) is to demonstrate a better way of living than revenge and vindictiveness since we know that Easter was a great victory, the victory of life over death. God showed in that Easter victory of Jesus, year after year, that goodness is stronger that evil, that love is stronger than darkness, that life is stronger than death, that love is stronger than hate. “Okay, but do we have to forgive and love our enemies?” Yup, we have been called by Our Lord to repair the brokenness of this world by living radical lives of compassion and forgiveness. I hope and pray that Christian churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the world reach out in areas where there is violence, poverty, injustice and lives being destroyed by violence will call their members to be the agents of transformation and healing. Barbara Brown Taylor says that despite the pain of suicide attacks and murder, authentic Christians did and do what Jesus teaches: turn the cheek, pray for the persecutor, love the enemy, welcome the stranger. In everything—do unto others as you would have them do unto you. “It sounds like advice for angels, not humans” she said, “so unrealistic, so undefended, it’s a wonder we repeat it at all. Yet there it is: the Christian teaching on how to respond to violence when it comes. Sometimes it actually works to disarm the violence in others, which is why we know the names of Gandhi, Tutu, and King. But that is not its main purpose. Its main purpose is to disarm the violence in us, so that we do not join the other team.”
Family members of missionaries killed in the Amazon returned to that savage land and ultimately converted those who killed their loved ones. Ethel Kennedy flew to California to forgive Sirhan Sirhan in person for murdering her husband, Bobby Kennedy. While hanging on the cross in excruciating pain, Christ forgave those who had hung Him there. Forgiveness is not an option for real Christians (as opposed to those who just use the name), we are to do as He commanded us in those red letters in my Bible. Christ has called us to be instruments of His peace and His love. We can be no other and remain His. It’s a hard row to hoe, to be sure, but one that others have done in spite of the difficulty. You want to be free, to rise up as on wings of eagles, to soar above the dirt and sin? Forgive those who have hurt you, forgive those who have hurt others, forgive, forgive, and then forgive again. You will not be the first to do so, but nothing will so change you, free you, and set you apart while in the midst of sin and violence as forgiveness and compassion will. Turn your manacles into butterflies by using the most powerful force on earth—love and forgiveness.