Christianity, Islam and Judaism share the same ancestral roots and people are wont to say, they, like all religions, are the same. They say there is no difference. And they would be wrong.
At the fork in the road of life where all religions supposedly converge - from that point- the genuine, ethical Christian strikes out on the strait and narrow path that is decidedly less traveled. It is the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows, self-denial, suffering and pain. It is the way of love for every man, and forgiveness for everyone despite the most heinous offense. It is a way that goes against every natural human instinct, keeping you always on your knees, crying to a sometimes seemingly distant God, for help and strength to survive another day. You become thoroughly familiar and conversant with the statement, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Read again the basic instructions from some of our founders:
The Apostle Matthew
“You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil, but if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be the sons of your father who is in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” – St. Matthew 5:38-45
The Apostle Paul
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Instead if your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty give them drink something to drink, in so doing you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” – Romans 12:19-20.
At this point, I can almost see the rolling eyes of disbelief, the snorting sound of incredulity on the lips, the disdainful shoulder shrug, as you sneer that this is impractical, illogical, unreasonable, a naïve utopian statement with no basis in reality, workable only in theory, but sorely lacking practical application.
To which, first of all, I would refer you to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as scores of Civil Rights marchers were savagely brutalized by law enforcement officers on the day known as Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965. Their crime was forcing America to confront and live up to its creed that all men are created equal. Even while they were being mauled, they did not strike back nor lift a finger in retaliation.
That incident became a turning point in the struggle for the prize. Within a few months, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into the law of the land. In case you forgot, it was a Christian minister who spearheaded this fight, and ultimately gave his life for the cause.
Take the violent history of Africa, coupled with the atrocities visited on the native blacks of South Africa suggested that the country would descend into a cauldron of vicious retribution and bloodshed when the blacks assumed power. That was not the case. Desmond Tutu, an Anglican archbishop, was appointed chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Anyone known to have committed violent crimes, no matter how despicable, who appeared before said commission, and admitted or acknowledged his or her misdeeds was pardoned, forgiven and was allowed to proceed with his or her life unhindered by a sordid past.
In his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, the archbishop recounts a poignant story of a wife who wrote to the commission about her husband.
“When he thinks about all the evil things he did, he awakes up at night in a cold sweat screaming. He cannot rest for all the demons that afflict his conscience. I am afraid that if someone does not come here and say I forgive you, that one day he is going to blow his brains out.”
Talk about coals of fire upon one’s head!
Foolish and naïve to a skeptical, selfish world, they trudged on believing, preaching and living until their final breath, that love conquers all.
Love and forgiveness are the only methods to turn an enemy into a friend and no one can resist their power and influence.
Hate is a non-productive, violent, destructive emotion that will eventually consume the practitioners thereof and eventually result in death for everyone involved therein.
Love, as espoused and practiced by Jesus Christ and his authentic disciples, is the only way out of this mess which we have created, and now find ourselves hopelessly enmeshed.
V. Knowles is a husband, father and prison minister with an interest in penning issues that serve to uplift mankind. He melds his love for Classic literature, The Bible and pop culture - as sordid as it may be - into highly relatable columns of truth, faith and justice. Hence the name: Just Thinking. If he's not buried in a book or penning his next column, you may find him pinned to his sectional watching a good old Country and Western flick.