Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:31-32).
The story made headlines in Christian media. In post-apartheid South Africa, a frail black woman stood in a courtroom in front of the man who had murdered her husband and son. The judge asked her, “What do you want?” Her answer stunned everyone.
She replied, “I want three things: To know where my husband’s body is, so I can bury him properly. Then, I want the accused to become my son, so that he can visit me, and I can show him the love I have. Finally, I want him to come forward now, so that I can forgive him, as Jesus forgives.”
Then, the story fell apart because it could not be confirmed. Many suspected a hoax. Perhaps it was. But why did so many Christians embrace it so readily? Because we know the account, however suspect its details, accurately reflects Jesus’ calling to love as he loves – to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Maybe the story serves best because we cannot pick its particulars apart. Instead, we must let the principles enter our heart, as from a modern parable, and consider how Christ’s mercy should motivate us.
Who needs your forgiveness this day? I know that you and I will want to pick apart the particulars of why we need, or need not, show mercy. Still, our Lord has already declared what he wants: “forgive as God in Christ forgave you.”
Lord, as I have received your grace, please help me to extend mercy toward those who have hurt me. Help me to forgive as I have been loved by you. Nothing that you require is harder or clearer in Scripture – or more blessed in life.