Wednesday, January 22, 2014
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower
leaves on the heel of the one that crushed it."
Forgive is one of those words that causes us to cringe. We want to run away and hide instead of facing the reality of that word.
"Forgive? What! Me forgive! You don't understand how hurt I am!"
"I can never forgive what that monster did to my child!"
Bitterness, anger, rage, uncontrollable emotions..This is the vicious cycle we go through in dealing with this emotional issue. Betrayal..scarred emotions..the death of a loved one..are just some of the many situations that make forgiveness seem like an impossible command to obey. Forgiveness is the last thing on one's mind when they have been betrayed, insulted, hurt and pushed to an emotional meltdown.
Just two weeks ago, I came across a heartbreaking story on the internet that has had a lasting emotional impact on my life. It was the story of a 27 year-old Iranian girl named Sanaz Nezami, who was brutally beaten and left for brain dead by her husband. Unable to travel to the United States to be with their daughter in her final hours, Sanaz's parents had to watch her die via a computer link up in her hospital room. Inspite of the horror and evil done to their precious daughter, they agreed to have her vital organs transplanted to save the lives of seven other Americans.
The story of Sanaz has had an incredible impact on not only me but also millions of people all over the world. It's the story of a "silver lining, a beauty from the ashes," something good coming out of a dark and difficult tragedy. My last blog was a tribute to the character and passion of Sanaz, a beautiful, intelligent Iranian girl who came to my country for a life of freedom and success.
However, every time I would see a picture of her husband Nima, I was filled with anger and bitterness. I wanted him to be justly punished for the senseless killing of this beautiful, innocent girl! How could he do this to her? Why did he do it?
The feelings and emotions haunted me day and night and became obsessive to the point that it was interfering with my daily work routine, until last night....
Last night I saw a picture of Nima with his lawyer appearing before a judge. I gazed at the picture, mocking and ridiculing him because of height and scraggly looking hair and then suddenly, my heart was convicted. Instead of bitterness, I was flooded with feelings of sorrow and compassion. I could hear the still, small voice inside of me saying, FORGIVE.
It is amazing how the Lord is able to get our attention. Right in the middle of my job, at the trash compactor, gazing at this picture on my cell phone, the Lord convicted me of my bitterness and self-righteousness, by reminding me of the one command that all of us as Christians struggle with from time to time...FORGIVE...
Jesus taught his disciples to "Love their enemies..to pray for those who persecute them."
Forgiveness is not an option..It's a command. Most of the time we allow our emotions to control and distort this clear command.
Standing at the trash compactor, gazing at the cell phone, the Lord reminded me that I have been forgiven a great debt, all of my sins have been erased and cleansed by his mercy and love. Because of that, I need to extend my mercy, love and forgiveness even to the most vilest and wicked of people.
As I gazed at Nima standing in the courtroom, I pictured the Judge saying to him, "You are guilty Nima. You have taken the life of another human being. You will spend the rest of your life behind bars and never see the light of day again.."
Then after the just verdict was rendered, I could picture the judge, stepping down from his "pulpit" and removing his judicial robes and embracing Nima with undeserved mercy and grace.
That is exactly what our Savior and Lord Jesus did for all of us, The just Judge of the universe stepped down from his royal seat in heaven and set aside his rights and privileges and became a humble servant. Jesus was perfect, sinless and completely innocent and yet he allowed himself to be treated as a criminal and die on a cross in order for all of our sins to be forgiven.
Jesus prayed for his executioners while suffering on the cross, crying out, "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Mercy and forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel. It is what distinguishes Christianity from all of the other world religions. Christianity is not a religion like all of the rest, but a real love relationship with God through Christ.
A perfect example of what real forgiveness looks like is the powerful story of the Amish community. In 2006, Charles Roberts barricaded himself inside of an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, tied up ten girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide.
Devastated and heartbroken, the small Amish community gathered together in mourning, but shocked the media and the world when they chose to forgive the killer, even to the extent of attending his funeral and embracing his family.
This is what real forgiveness looks like. Instead of allowing bitterness and rage keeping their souls in bondage for the rest of their life, the Amish community instead reached out with the love and forgiveness as taught to them by Jesus.
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one that crushed it."
How true! The crushed rose, the crushed flower, leaves a beautiful fragrance inspite of being trampled upon. That should be the response of every Christian! Grace and mercy, instead of hatred and anger! Unfortunately that was was not my first response, but it doesn't change the fact that it should have been...
"Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
Wait. There is one more beautiful "twist" to my journey toward forgiveness. After my experience I looked up the meaning of Sanaz's name on the internet. I was astonished to find that the name Sanaz in Persian means, "full of grace."
Wow! That revelation brought tears to my eyes. After reflecting for a moment, I realized that The meaning of her name is really not surprising. Sanaz was a compassionate and giving person. She truly lived up to her name. In fact I'm convinced that she would have wanted all of us to forgive Nima for what he did.
Sanaz was that crushed flower that has left a fragrance on all of our lives. That is why I can forgive!