Forgiveness is important enough, and hard enough that it needs more than one Reflection. Here is a story about a time where forgiveness was very hard, but where it eventually became very life-giving for many people.
This is about following through on forgiveness. Forgiveness is tough, but once you’ve made a decision, it’s significantly easier than dithering over the choice. With God’s grace it can happen, but the hurt might not always disappear overnight. By showing forgiveness in a practical way you help to heal the wounds.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 (NIV)
If you’ve heard about the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) you’ll know that there is a considerable negative history between Lebanese and Syrians, and that Syrian troops did not completely leave Lebanon before 2005. Before the Lebanese had time to forgive and forget painful memories, the Syria crisis started in 2011, and with it came an influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, such that our country today has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, with one in every four persons a Syrian refugee, 80 percent women and children.
Yet how does the church respond to the needs of this multitude of Syrian refugees when its congregations include people who were themselves, or members of their families were, hurt during the Civil War. God, in His wisdom, started working within us. A colleague of mine openly told her church: ‘The best I can do is pray for them, but don’t ask me to get involved! I still have not forgotten when at gunpoint my husband and I were lined up against the wall to be shot at. It’s only through God’s intervention that we’re still alive.’ Yet as she heard of what the Lord is doing in their lives, she went through a paradigm shift: ‘God is revealing Himself in dreams and visions, miracles of healing, answered prayers to these people whom for years we considered to be the enemy! I want to be where God is at work.’ And so she is today directly involved, both at her church and through LSESD, in serving refugee children and families.
As LSESD we carry out our humanitarian response to the Syria crisis in partnership with local churches and community-based organisations. Each person involved has their own story to share of how God changed their heart. One young man, who had lost loved ones during the same war, shared that at the time he and his community had prayed that God may bring on Syria the same calamities that the Lebanese were going through. Yet, he told us, ‘When the refugees started coming into our country, we rushed to their aid, for who can better empathise with them than us Lebanese who have been through it all?!’ Today, he pastors one of our partner churches in Lebanon that is serving around 2000 refugee families.
God is working both within and through our churches in a magnificent way! All agree that as we serve the refugees, we’re learning a lot of new things about God! God is teaching us how to forgive, and He is teaching us about Him through them.
Here are some ways to respond to today’s Reflection, building on the first Forgiveness Act. Green for a small step forward, Yellow for a bigger step, and Red for a generous leap.
GREEN:If you are having trouble forgiving, spend today getting closer to forgiveness. Pray for yourself, and pray for the person you want to forgive.
YELLOW:Finding a practical way to show forgiveness starts with sincerely putting the other person first. There are two ways to approach this: (1) think, yourself, of a way to show forgiveness; (2) ask the person you’re forgiving what might be a good start.
RED:Give more than they deserve back. If you’ve forgiven someone, how do you actively demonstrate that with kindness?