Thursday, March 28, 2013

Forgiveness--A Tool Or A Transformation?

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Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra Pelosi, has produced another documentary. She's produced a couple of films in the past, neither complimentary to evangelical Christians---particularly "Friends of God."

This time its about former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey's fall from political power after it was revealed that he was having an affair---with another man.

This film, "Fall To Grace" is kind to McGreevey as you might imagine. Even the title suggests that it is.

Her film making is of little interest to me, but a comment she made this week while promoting it, caught my attention.

She confessed she misled McGreevey a little in the beginning to get him to agree and sign the releases for her film. His male partner, she says, never did feel comfortable.

Ms. Pelosi said she has a simple mantra that she lives by regarding forgiveness.

The Supreme Court continued the hearing on marriage yesterday. They will rule on Prop. 8 and DOMA in June.

Christian leaders were expressing their views yesterday afternoon after listening to the arguments and the justices' questions and comments.

The comments and concerns of Matt Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, Jim Campbell, attorney with Alliance Defending Marriage, and Andrew Walker with the Heritage Foundation, all echoed concerns that should the Court rule in any way that does not affirm marriage as the union between a man and a woman, it will do untold harm to religious liberty in America. The link above provides their comments.

Now, more about forgiveness.

Alexandra Pelosi said her mantra is, "Its better to beg forgiveness, than to ask for permission."

So forget her film. Is forgiveness a tool of manipulation or of personal transformation?

Forgiveness is both a path to wholeness and to personal transformation. It's a path to freedom. True forgiveness is never an act of manipulation.

Jesus said in His model prayer, "And forgive us our sins [trespasses] as we forgive those who have sinned [trespassed] against us."

Is He teaching conditional love and conditional forgiveness?

Not at all.

He's telling us that an unforgiving heart is incapable of receiving forgiveness. A forgiving heart can receive forgiveness from another.

This is a time to think of new life, new beginning and resurrection.

Let me tell you a true story.

Marjorie and I had only been married a couple of years when I received my military draft notice. I had been chosen to serve my country. I was told to expect a contact to report for my physical exam and induction into the Army.

Within a couple of weeks I, along with others from the Yakima Valley, was on a Greyhound Bus on our way to Seattle, and we were not headed to a Seahawk game.

I was found to be physically and mentally fit to serve and was told to expect to report to duty in 30 days or less and to be on the ground in Vietnam within 90 days.

As time passed, the war became more complicated and I became older. Although many of my friends were called up, I was not.

My first visit to Vietnam was as a pastor, not a soldier. It was in the early 1970's and South Vietnam was falling as American troops were withdrawn.

I had become involved in helping to plant Christian churches, schools, medical centers and hospitals in many developing countries of the world. Working with local people and missionaries, we would organize building crews here in the US to give of their time and talent and come to the cities and villages and physically build structures, while we preached the gospel and introduced new Christians to their new church. The schools and medical centers were always associated with local churches, pastors and missionaries.

My invitation to Vietnam came at a time when many Americans were leaving the country, not entering it. A time when the South Vietnam government was falling, while the North--the Vietcong, were advancing. However, we felt as though we should go, so we did.

My new missionary friend, Bob, and I were driving out of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Min City) across the slender width of the country, when he told me we would soon hear gunfire, and we soon did.

He asked if I would like to hear why he was in this country as a missionary. I told him I would.

The next hour seemed like a few minutes.

With the sound of gunfire and an occasional explosion in the distance, he opened his heart.

He recalled a typical hot day on the front line of battle. He had already killed several of the enemy. "Killing," he told me, "had become easier with time and risk."

And over time, anger to the point of rage had built up within him. Anger toward the war and toward the people with whom he was fighting. He said bitterness and hate controlled him.

Then he said, there was a moment, a single moment in time when everything seemed to stop---freeze frame. Everything became surreal. Fear gripped him. Not the fear of war or even the fear of dying. The fear of living. How could he continue to live in this state of mind?

At that moment, fell to his knees, looked up and said aloud, "God if you're there, please help me. Hear my prayer. Forgive me."

Over the next few days he continued to take care of business on the battlefield, but noticeable change was happening in his heart and mind.

He survived the battlefield of Vietnam and returned home. He begun to attend church, read his Bible and pray.

In time, he began to feel he was supposed to return to Vietnam. This time as a messenger of the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. How we can forgive and be forgiven. How God can change a life and transform a person.

He looked at me with tears streaking down his cheeks and said, "Gary, that's why I'm here." He said, "I have never felt more whole, complete and free in my life."

During the days I spent with him planning the birth of several new churches and a Teen Challenge Center to address the drug addiction in Saigon, which incidentally I'm told is still operating as a Red Cross Center under the leadership of spirit filled Swedish Christians, I saw a man who once had been blind, but now could see. A free man.

Often times we have our own wars of bitterness and unforgiveness. Sometimes undeclared wars, but wars none the less. I don't know what or where yours is being waged.

I don't know whether your war is related to a battle in a far away place and another time or if it boils silently, perhaps even within your own home or family.

If it exists, this is a time to heal. A time to forgive and be forgiven. A time to be released from the destruction of hate, bitterness and unforgiveness.

This is a time to let it go. A time for new life and restoration.

This is a time for your resurrection.

Those whom the Son sets free, are free indeed.

Be blessed.