"But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you." - Acts 26: 1-8
Several black FBI cars and trucks pulled up the street of my gentrifying neighborhood with its mix of half-million dollar and old homes of little value. An army of men with bulletproof vests emerged, walking briskly toward Fred and Jane's (not their real names).
Fred, a talkative, hard-working white man of short stature, scruffy beard and missing teeth, talks tough, but is kind. He says he was in prison and alludes to having killed people. Jane, his wife, once an unhappy woman, used to sit in her front window most of the time . . . until Fred got home from prison. They now work hard together, cutting grass, shoveling snow, and other odd jobs to make ends meet. Jane, the apple of Fred's eye, now smiles all the time.
But the authorities are still always after Fred. In this case, the FBI is looking for a relative on the run. They want to send a message – costly to Fred and Jane who are powerless to stop them. It's always something.
I wish Fred had a community like the church in Acts. Remember Paul's past life. He once persecuted, terrorized and killed Christians in the very community he is now called to serve. Imagine it was your mother, father, son or daughter that Paul tortured, widowed or orphaned in God's name, who now claims to be a changed man.
Could you forgive him?
The church in Acts did.
They believed in a God who forgives, no matter how heinous the crime, without respect of persons. As a result, they changed the world. Do you believe in that God?
Does someone in your life need your forgiveness? Is that person you? God says, "Accept my love. Stand and testify. Give it away." Do it today. Make it known.
Gracious God, please give me the power I lack to forgive someone – even if it's me -- who has hurt me deeply. I turn my heart over to you. I receive your help in moving beyond hurt to positive action that transforms relationships and the world around me. I want to help make the world around me – even my own – a bit more like you: forgiving, restoring, and reconciling. Amen.
Ron Buford is the former coordinator of the UCC's God is still speaking campaign and appears in the DVD-based progressive theology series, Living the Questions 2.0.