union soldier saluteAs we ponder the turmoil in our nation and see the building tension among races I can’t help but be driven back to God’s Word and the challenge He gives each one of us to forgive others.  I don’t know about you, but there are certain people in my life who are hard to forgive, because their words and their actions are hurtful and harmful.  When the attacks and pain becomes personal, it challenges my character to forgive the unlovely.  But that is exactly what God requires of us (Matthew 5:44)

During the last day of the U.S. Civil War, Joshua Chamberlain, an officer with the Union army, surrounded a group of Confederate soldiers.  Instead of firing upon the humiliated enemy, he allowed them to surrender with dignity.  Commander Chamberlain ordered his men to form a column on each side of the road that led to the encampment.  Despite the potential for one belligerent act or one wrong word that could set off a slaughter, he told his men to be humble and salute their foes as they passed.

It was a moving moment on the battlefield.  Union soldiers who were tired, angered, and frustrated turned away from their feelings and saluted with their rifles and raised swords, honoring the defeated enemy.  This event was a great example of the mercy that God intended us to show to foes.

It is usually very difficult to show mercy to those who have sinned against us.  In Luke 6:27-36 we read the words of Christ about forgiveness:

  • But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (v. 31).
  • But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Our Lord was telling us that these are the ways for Kingdom life.  He was helping us better comprehend the difference between people of grace and those who seek revenge.  Forgiveness is not natural to most of us.  That is why we need the Holy Spirit’s power to encourage us to do the super-natural.  To show grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love to those who offend us is what Christ did on Calvary’s Cross for each of us. How can we NOT do for others what He did for you and for me?

Next time someone offends you, try and show the mercy Christ gave each one of us.  If it were easy everyone would be doing it and we wouldn’t find our country in the mess it is in today.  So, how do we get to a place of respect and harmony?  It starts with one act of grace and kindness and then another and another and another….

Personal Application:
1.    How can each of us change our hearts, minds, and attitudes so that we can be a more forgiving believer?
2.    When we show the power of forgiveness to one another, healing can begin– relationships can be restored.
3.    Where is a good place to start with the grace God is has given us?

Jim Grassi, D. Min.