Happy Wednesday, y'all! I am so excited to welcome one of my favorite friends to the blog today, Charlotte. I met Charlotte when I was the teaching assistant for her public relations class -- and apparently I invited her to check out my church, The Journey. (Truthfully, I don't remember much of any of this, but Charlotte swears it's true!) Thankfully, she listened to me and found an incredible community of faith to do life with -- and not only that, but she ended up finding God's match for her, my-friend-turned-Charlotte's-husband, Chad. (Hi, Chad!) A few months ago, they made a cross-country move to San Diego and I miss them both like crazy! (Thank goodness for phones, right?!) Charlotte has the sweetest spirit and only a few minutes in her presence is enough to turn your whole day around. Be sure to check out her website or follow her on Insta with her latest project -- @wildlybeloved.
Scripture: Luke 23:32-43
Observation: In this passage, Jesus has been mocked, beaten, tortured, and crucified. As he hangs on the cross, Jesus shows radical love and forgiveness to His enemies and to a man who desperately sought His freedom and friendship.
Application: Imagine that the person you love most has been killed.
Imagine that they were taken from your home, in the middle of the night. Imagine running in fear as you look back to see your home burning to the ground.
Friends, I’m sorry to rattle you this morning. I pray that you never know the pain and agony that comes with losing someone you love in such a violent way, and if you’ll stick with me for just a second - I promise I’m going somewhere with this.
I, for one, cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like if someone broke into my home and murdered my husband. I can’t imagine life without him. Not in my wildest, craziest dreams.
Sadly, I know a woman who calls this her reality. Her husband was brutally murdered, right before her eyes, during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. And it wasn’t just her husband, and she wasn’t the only one hurting: in less than 100 days, 800,000 Rwandans - husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers - were killed. Just like I can’t imagine what it would be like to witness my husband’s murder, I can’t imagine how one could possibly move forward, live life, and place one foot in front of the other after such a horrific tragedy. How could one love again?
And forgiveness? Forgiving the man who murdered your husband? Again - not even in my wildest, craziest dreams.
But, guess what? This woman completely forgave her husband’s killer. She works alongside him, shows him compassion, forgives the sins of his pasts, and works with him towards total peace and reconciliation. She loves him like a brother. She forgives a man who was once her enemy; she now calls him friend.
If you’re wondering “where on Earth does this woman get the strength to forgive?”, the truth is, well...not from anywhere on Earth. Her strength is from Heaven.
She answers simply, “God has given me a heart of forgiveness. Only forgiveness can win.”
When Jesus was crucified, He knew that death would not win. He knew that the sin and evil of our broken world would not overcome the Kingdom of Heaven. He had the courage to endure the pain, agony, and torment from his murderers, and He had the courage to say,
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
As the soldiers mocked him while He hung on the cross, waiting to die, Jesus looked down with love in His eyes and forgave them.
Can you imagine anything more courageous than that?
If you’re like me, you know that forgiving others can be HARD. It can be hard to forgive when a coworker or classmate gossips about you; it can be hard to forgive when your spouse hurts you or even when someone cuts you off on the freeway on your morning commute. When we’re hurt, when we’re feeling pain, often the last thing that we want to do is forgive.
But, my friends, Jesus calls us to live more courageously than that.
He set the perfect example on the Cross. While He was dying for our sins, He was forgiving those who condemned Him to death. And while He was condemned, He forgave the sinner hanging on the cross next to Him. And the reason for all of that was because He wanted to save and forgive you and me.
Surely, if the Rwandan widow can find the strength to forgive, we can too. The beautiful thing is, in the refining, gritty, process of forgiveness, we are slowly but certainly looking a little bit more like Jesus. We look a little more courageous; we look a little more like love.
I don’t know what you’re going through, and I don’t know your deepest hurts. I’m not sure who it might be in your life that you’re struggling to forgive today, but please know that you can. Know that I’m rooting for you. Know that God wants to give you the strength to forgive courageously.
Will you let Him?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to remember that forgiveness wins. I desperately need your help and guidance to forgive others. I pray for the strength that the Rwandan widow has. I pray that when faced with hurt, pain, and disappointment - you will give me the strength to not only forgive my enemies, but to truly love them, just as Jesus did.
Learn more about the power of forgiveness after the Rwandan genocide.