Forgiveness as Healing – The Rev. John Romig Johnson, Ph.D., N.C.Psy.A

Father John JohnsonJust down the street from my little parish an event transpired that brought me and many like me to a profound moment of self-reflection.  On June 17,2015 the worst racially motivated murder in modern times in Charleston, SC occurred. It was a day of tremendous sorrow, suffering, soul searching.  Just 2 days later the grieving family members stood up and said they forgave this murderer. Many folks I heard said Dylan Roof was beyond forgiving

Just one day after the murders, Chris Singleton, the college student son of victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, said he forgave his mother’s killer. The following day, family members of the dead joined the first court hearing for the suspected killer, 21-year-old Dylan Roof, and told him via video conference that they, too, forgave him — even as some acknowledged also feeling angry and hurt.

“Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love, and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win,” said Alana Simmons, granddaughter of Emanuel victim the Rev. Daniel Simmons.

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson, whose wife Myra Thompson was killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

Roof was ordered held until a bond is set on murder charges. He appeared by video from the county jail and seemed to show no emotion as family members spoke.

Those who extend forgiveness say they are not naive in doing so. Some say they are still working at it, and they make clear that forgiveness is not the only emotion they have about the racial events that are unfolding.  The Rev. Norvel Goff, interim pastor succeeding the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney at Emanuel, said self-preservation is also a motive — forgiving does more for the person who is hurting than the one who caused the pain. “We’re not in control of those who may commit evil acts, but we are in control of how we respond to it,” Goff said.

In my work as a Jungian Analyst and psychotherapist, I find in many of my clients there is a great deal of resentment and bitterness toward their parents whom they feel let them down. They experienced a lack of support from their parents or that they were badly mistreated. Also, I find couples in virtually insoluble conflict.  Facing very divisive conflicts between husband and wife where infidelity or cruelty or abandonment has produced a deep sense of abuse or mistrust contributing to a lifelong sense of dependency and fear of being abandoned or total alienation.  I even see some folks who have a virtually lifelong feud between a brother or a sister where sibling rivalry approaches the intensity of a Biblical conflict.  While forgiveness is such cases is not required or may be impossible, and it may be too entrenched or deep rooted to change. In such cases, the therapeutic client spends his or her time and the time of the analyst feeling angry, and resentful, counterattacking and blaming others, all of which makes forgiveness very hard to come by. On the other hand, as difficult as it is and how much pain and sadness it has caused, still forgiveness can lead to healing.

Forgiving someone who has wronged you is no easy task, getting to forgiveness is no easy path although as a psychologist I would suggest forgiveness allows the forgiving person to be free of the burden of resentment, and of needing to get revenge and of living a life of anger that would give us a longer happier life.  Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and the thoughts of revenge. The person and the act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life.  Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

The person or the act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life.  Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

When you are unable to forgive and let go of past wrongs, it may bring anger and bitterness into every experience you have or relationship you are in.  It also contributes to anxiety and depression.  What happens when you forgive requires you to examine how holding that grudge may have a powerful effect on your life. Forgiveness requires a willingness to change your view of what has happened to you and give up being a victim.  This is a freedom to let it go can set aside bitterness   As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You may even find compassion and understanding

I believe forgiveness is a deliberate and conscious decision to let go of the feelings of resentment and desire for revenge against someone who has harmed you.  You don’t gloss over the seriousness of the offence, nor forget or condone evil acts.You really need to recognize the pain you have suffered without letting pain define you which will enable you to heal and to move on with your life.

 

Live What Matters – Emory R. Hiott*

Emory R. HiottMichael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and now Philando Castile.   In the past two years there have been a lot of officer involved shootings. Even more than these few mentioned.  Some of these cases were clear, others were and are not.  Either way, they are heavy on the Christian heart, but what should our response be?  As one wise 19 year old said “Love overcomes hate.” – Chris Singleton.   Young Chris seems to echo the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. a Christian Pastor known for his peaceful stance against racism.  One of my favorite quotes by him reads, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  So that brings us again to the Christian response as these current events flood our minds and conversations.

  1. Pray – I know by taking all matters to the God who created each one of us, He will help give us the words and clarity necessary to deal with hard situations.   Sometimes God just needs us to run to Him for comfort and rest there.
  1. Speak with love – We don’t always have to “choose sides” when matters like this arise.  Whether you are an advocate for Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, or All Lives Matter, we need to see that in each of these there are two hurting sides.  There is compassion needed in our words as well as our actions for all involved and affected.
  1. Serve – Jesus calls us to a life of service, and love is an action word.  If we are truly reaching out to love others the way Christ loves us, then we are looking for ways to serve and reconcile broken parts of our world.  This can be overwhelming, but it has to happen.  We as Christians need to be known for the peace, kindness, goodness, patience, and joy that can flow through us into our communities through being the hands and feet of Christ.  Go sit and talk with someone today that you wouldn’t normally talk with and LISTEN.  Go serve in a way that may feel uncomfortable at first and WATCH.  Go give in ways that seem unnatural and FEEL.  Let the God who is sovereign use you in ways you can’t imagine and bring healing to a hurting world.

 

Heavenly Father, don’t let our words or actions be those of hate, help us to respond to all situations showing love as you would do.  Guide us to opportunities that we never thought imaginable so that we may serve and let your love be known.  Help us show others the peace and joy found in your son, Jesus.  Amen.

*Emory R. Hiott is the Minister to Children at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina/

 

That We May Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves – Glenn Hinson* – A Prayer

Crescent Hill Baptist Church                                                 September 7, 2008

O God, we know it’s presumptuous to pray.

Yet we must, for you have commanded it, and we can’t face life without it.

We know, too, why you have commanded it.

Not just because we need it, but because you’ve fallen in love with us and can’t   get along without us, Mad Lover that you are.

You put yourself on the spot when you did it, you know, and now here we are, coming just as we are, to put before you our “souls’ sincere desires.”

What is our soul’s sincere desire?

We can’t really put it into words because so many other thoughts have come in

and taken control of our lives, but here are some of the ways we’ve learned to express it:

–We want to do your will, O God, not just our own.

–We want to obey your commandments and instruction rather than go our selfish ways.

–Or, as the Apostle Paul said it, we want to love our neighbors as ourselves,

which sums up the Law in its entirety.

We can’t hear ourselves say those words, though, without recognizing that we have failed to live them and need to ask your forgiveness.  Forgive us, O God,

–When we do not love our neighbors as ourselves.

–When we fail to consider how our desire for comforts and conveniences causes hurt to people in poorer nations.

–When we let the chasm between rich and poor in our nation and between nations grow and grow and grow without protest and effort to change.

–When we let our busyness and distractedness keep us from being “good Samaritans” to people in a ditch by the side of the road.

Your loving kindness and infinite patience alone can assure us that you forgive us, but we know that your grace impels us to renewed resolution to love our neighbors like you love—without partiality and without limit.  And we know that your love alone can transform us and energize us to love our neighbors as we have never loved before.

In humility, then, we gather here in your presence, O God, to plead “that your love may grow more and more in us in understanding and in every sensitivity, so that we may have a sense of things that really matter, in order that we may be pure in heart in the day of Christ and filled with the fruit of righteousness that redounds through Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God” (Phil 1:9-11).

As we bow in the presence of you “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,” we lift up to you a few of our concerns for neighbors:

–Our beloved neighbors from Myanmar and the families they have had to leave behind.

–Our neighbors of all ages in Crescent Hill Baptist Church who wrestle with life’s vulnerabilities.

–Our neighbors in the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky in their efforts to provide adequate sustenance for the whole body politic in a time of economic        stress.

–Our neighbors in our nation and all the nations of the earth in their earnest  search for justice, freedom, and peace.

–Especially our neighbors everywhere who suffer the ravages of war—the deaths, the famine, the loss of livelihoods and homes, the devastation.

O God, we pray that you will give us

–eyes to see who are our neighbors,

–ears to hear their cries,

–hearts to love them as you love us,

–minds to understand how to put love into action,

–and hands to do what our hearts and minds tell us.

Now we make bold to pray the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, saying,

“Our Father . . .”

Glenn Hinson spoke at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC in 2002. He is a renowned Biblical scholar and seminary professor. This prayer is used with his permission.

 

A Gentle Answer – Week Four – FBC – Devotionals for June

Scripture Focus: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” — Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

Dr. Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary and the author of Uncommon Decency has written another delightful book, Praying at Burger King. In it he says that Burger King is a perfect place to pray because you see people there from all walks of life. He goes on to say that during the many mornings when he had breakfast there he became aware of how badly the young people behind the counter were treated. He states that they were subjected to scathing and often relentless verbal abuse.

It became his mission to always say something encouraging and uplifting to these young workers. They were often surprised and grateful for his thoughtfulness. What a difference a kind word makes. Proverbs tells us that a gentle word turns away wrath. Presidential candidate Donald Trump says that if someone attacks him he hits back ten times harder. At the other end of the spectrum, one of the most endearing characteristics of President Reagan was that he most often responded to harsh criticisms with humor. He wisely turned a potentially damaging situation into a joyful one.

As Christians we are called upon, ”To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.” Titus 3:2. Peter simplifies our challenge, “Honor everyone.” 1 Peter 2:17.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, when I am tempted to verbally abuse my brothers and sisters remind me that you are the creator of us all and that when I dishonor another person I am dishonoring you. Amen.

Doers of the Word – Week Three- FBC – Devotionals for June

Scripture Focus: “You must be doers of the word and not hearers only.” — James 1:22-24

I was conducting a workshop for those who wanted to learn how to speak in public. Deep into my introduction of the materials, the young woman sitting closest to me raised her hand. “Are you saying that all of us are required to make a public speech before the workshop ends?” “Yes,” I answered. What did you expect?” “I thought that you would just tell us how to do it and we would listen.” She replied.

This exchange demonstrates what is true about so much of today’s public Christianity. We are content to hear the truth, but we are reluctant to put that truth into action. Children go to bed hungry. Expectant mothers go without prenatal care. Our prisons are full of men and women unable to read and gun violence escalates. In the midst of such tragedies, we Christians are content within our church walls. Rev. Don Kirkland says in his book, Something Ventured, “Our Christianity must be visible to others or it is not Christianity at all.” He also answers the question, what did Jesus do during all of his time not accounted for in the Bible? “He went about doing good.”

Walter Rauschenbusch, the great advocate of the Social Gospel Movement, had two tables set up in the church he pastored for new members to sign up. One table was for enrolling as a new church member. The other was for enrolling for one of the church’s social action projects. Both enrollments were required. Rauschenbusch took James seriously.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, help me to understand that being a follower of Jesus demands that I be proactive on behalf of others. Amen.


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