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How To Forgive Our Enemies

Posted by on July 20, 2015

Last week, the news from Chattanooga, TN left us shocked. Four Marines killed, several others injured in an unprovoked attack by what appears to be a jihadist gunman. Since then, one of the injured has also died from his wounds.

Many of us feel connected to the military and specifically the Marine Corps because our sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, or file000871375277other loved ones are currently serving or have served as Marines in the recent past. Others are preparing to serve. No doubt, I wasn’t the only one who experienced that moment when my breath caught in my throat, knowing That could’ve been my son (my brother, my dad, my husband). 

My heart grieves for those families. As the victims’ names and pictures circulate, I can’t stop the tears, any more than I can stop the anger–yes, even hatred for the killer. It doesn’t matter what nationality he was. His reason doesn’t matter. There simply is no excuse, no good reason for what he did.

Even as I give in to my anger, I recall the Scripture text I read only days before. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45, NIV) The passage continues explaining that if we only forgive those who forgive us, we’re no better than those who don’t know or honor God. The passage ends with an admonition in verse 48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Most of us probably think of perfect as being without flaw, but the Greek can also be translated as “complete.” Interesting. Possibly the hardest thing to accomplish, humanly speaking, is what makes us complete in God’s eyes.

How? How do we accomplish that when everything inside us screams for vengeance, for justice?

How did Jesus–beaten and tortured, dying a slow death on a cross–how was He able to ask the Father to forgive the very men who pounded spikes through his flesh?

It occurred to me that He knew their fate if they remained unforgiven. He knew the horrors they’d face for eternity would vastly outstrip His own momentary pain and suffering. He knew! And he didn’t want even His worst enemies to suffer an eternity like that.

Do I want that for the shooter? A part of me would like to say yes, but in reality, could I sentence a fellow human being to such an end? No, I can’t. My only choice, then, is to say along with Jesus, “Father, forgive him. He had no idea what he was doing, no clue what the eternal result would be.”

Father, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Please. May we be perfect, complete, like Jesus.

I welcome your thoughts on how it is possible to forgive when it seems impossible.


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2 Responses to How To Forgive Our Enemies

  1. Kiersti

    Thought-provoking post, Mary…thanks for sharing. I’ve never yet been in the situation of these families of having such a “huge” thing to forgive–I struggle enough with smaller things!–but as you point out, Jesus has. I’m reminded of the families in Charleston and how they showed forgiveness and mercy toward their loved ones’ murderer last month. Their example humbles and inspires me and shows me what forgiveness can look like in Christ-followers right now, today.

    • Mary Hamilton

      Thank you, Kiersti. Yes, the Charleston families are incredible examples of Christ followers. You said it well–humbling and inspiring.

I welcome your thoughts on this.