Forgiveness: A Living Object Lesson


“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors….For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Mat. 6:12, Mat. 6:14-15


The brutal slaughter of five school girls in the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has provided the world with a visible reminder of the devilish nature of human sinfulness, and a contrasting example of the love of Christ and the forgiveness which is engendered by it.


One journalist asked a leader in the community the question on the minds of most people. In paraphrase the question went, “How is it possible to forgive someone who has done such a dastardly deed?” To which the elder replied, “We have received God’s forgiveness, which was provided through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because we have received it, we are able then to give it to those who have sinned against us.” Another member of the Amish community said, (again I paraphrase) “Forgiveness is not an option, it is a commandment.” The world has stood in amazement to see such a vivid and living example of faith and obedience to the Word of God. One Christian (Derek Maul) was quoted in a letter printed in USA Today (13 October, page 11A), “As a Christian, I’d like to respectfully thank my Amish brothers and sisters for what they have achieved in rehabilitating the public face of private faith. In the aftermath of such a brutal schoolhouse massacre, the rest of the world has experienced the rare privilege of witnessing real followers of Jesus ante up authentic Christianity in the face of the worst this broken world has to offer……against such a backdrop, the quiet believers of Lancaster County, PA, engaged the one opportunity they had to take the national stage. They responded – both in word and deed – by re-introducing the rest of us to the humble spirit of the crucified Christ and the forgiving love of their risen Lord.”


What the Amish have demonstrated is that in the aftermath of evil, by which we are recipients of the injury, the righteous and healing response is genuine forgiveness. We must remember that forgiveness cost the cross, and by forgiving we declare our willingness to “take up the cross” and suffer the injury, rather than retaliate. To act otherwise is to put ourselves in the place of the unforgiving servant in Jesus’ parable (Mat. 18:21-35). Having been forgiven the overwhelming debt of the “ten thousand talents” we choose to judge our fellow servant for his debt of “a hundred denarii” (a piddling sum by comparison), thus breaking our fellowship with the heavenly Father, and bringing His discipline on ourselves (i.e. the guilt of the very debt we refuse to forgive). I believe this is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Mat. 7:1-2)


While I admire their forgiving spirit, I do not agree with the pacifistic philosophy of the Amish, or their refusal to fight in the defense of this country. To me it is inconsistent to forbid the righteous, armed response against criminals (which scripture supports – Exo 22:2), and yet to call the police for protection by the very means they declare to be sinful. There is a vast difference between taking steps to stop a crime in progress and the attempt to take vengeance after the fact (Rom 12:17-18).


We are living in a time when God is calling America to account for His past blessings, which we have taken for granted, and for the light He has given this country, which we increasingly reject. In the cycles of national Divine discipline recorded in Leviticus 26, we find these words that parallel the recent and past school atrocities. “Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children…and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate.” (Lev. 26:21-22). Each and every new barbaric crime, each natural disaster, every threat and plot of renewed terrorism, is a wake-up call to America. Yet we continue to slumber on, hitting the “snooze button” as we pursue our pleasures, indifferent and unaware of our impending destruction as a nation.


Our gallant soldiers on the front lines of the current great war for the survival of civilization, and our dedicated fire-fighters and peace officers, have all demonstrated the virtue of courage, which is willing to fight, and if necessary die, for our loved ones and country. Now the humble Amish have enlightened a nation to the power of forgiveness on the basis of the cross of Christ. Both qualities are essential if we are to survive as a nation. The same Lord who said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Joh 15:13), also said, “forgive one another from the heart” (Mat 18:35) and “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Mat 5:44) The great test in the spiritual life is never one extreme or another, but the dynamic of a life balanced by the power of the Spirit of God in conformity to His Word. My prayer is that we who believe will take up the challenge to be living examples of the “grace and truth” which so filled our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.


Zambia Mission


I will depart tomorrow (Sunday, 15 October) for the remote western province of Zambia. I will be teaching a gathering of pastors from scattered desert churches who are overlooked and forgotten by the Church of the rest of the world. These poor and ragged believers are, to me, what David speaks of in Psa. 16:3, “As for the saints who are on the earth, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  It is my greatest joy to go to the ones who are never visited, in places no one wants to go, to give and receive mutual encouragement. So often they teach me more than I am able to give them. Logan Carnell from Amador Bible Church (Pastor Bill Puryear) in Pine Grove, California will accompany me, as he continues his training for the plan of God in his life. We were recently blessed to visit Logan and his wife Desiree in their home, meet parents and friends, and sit in on some excellent Bible classes as Pastor Bill expounded the Word of God. Please pray for us─for health, strength, and above all, unconditional submission to the Spirit of God to effectively minister His Word. Our journey will entail a two day trek by foot and ox cart to reach these precious men who give their lives in service to Jesus Christ.


Prayer Requests:


1.     Zambia Mission (Oct. 15-27).

2.     Peru Pastors Conference (Nov. 27-Dec.1).

3.     Pastor Jared Donigian and wife Tiersa; Perth, Australia.

4.     Bible Institute Graduation, Numba Village, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 8-29, 2007).

5.     Pastors in India–suffering persecution, and cholera.

6.     Thanksgiving for all who pray and give and participate in this ministry.  We have recently enjoyed a visit by Ken and Sharon Curcio from the D.C. area. Ken is a member of the BTBM board. Sharon has been instrumental in the production of our recent publication “Rivers of Living Water”.

7.     Please pray for board member Bill Haynes, who is going through cancer treatment, and for his wife Glenna.