Tuesday, July 19, 2011

an act of forgiveness

Rarely does an article or essay hand me what I've come to affectionately term as a "stay of heart" or "pause." The following is an excerpt from an article I read three days ago on CNN.

"I cannot tell you that I am an innocent man. I am not asking you to feel sorry for me, and I won't hide the truth," Mark Anthony Stroman said from Texas death row at the Polunsky Correctional Unit in Livingston. "I am a human being and made a terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger, and believe me, I am paying for it every single minute of the day."
The 41-year-old prisoner is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for a murder he once said was fueled by "patriotism," but which the state argued was motivated by pure hatred. 
The admitted white supremacist was convicted in the deadly shooting of an Indian man, part of a killing spree that began just after the September 11 terror attacks. His target: those he believed were of Middle Eastern background, in revenge and retaliation for the worst domestic terror incident in U.S. history.
A Pakistani man was also murdered and a Bangladeshi man was seriously wounded in separate attacks.” -CNN

It's not hard to imagine--a man, furious at the genocide carried out own his own countrymen in a vicious surprise attack lashes out, robbing and killing essentially the first people he comes across that look like they're from the same people group as the terrorists. 
A self-proclaimed white supremacist with a long history of violent crimes, his response was nothing if not natural. As he stated himself, he is "a human being [who] made a terrible mistake..." 
There was little extraordinary about it; the man was what my dad would call "a bad person who hurt a lot of people" and it was just another set of vengeful if not misdirected killings.

Rob Bell is now famous (or infamous) for popularizing the statement "love wins." While he treats it as a form of entitlement to the Kingdom of Heaven, many disagree that the entrance fee to permanent residency behind the "pearly gates" can be paid in full with that statement alone. 
Controversy aside, Jesus was nothing if not decided when he said in Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Barnes speaks of the sheer power behind Jesus' statement in his concordance of Corinthians 13:13: "[Love is] more important than faith and hope, because, although it may co-exist with them, and though they all shall live forever, yet love enters into the very nature of the kingdom of God; binds society together; unites the Creator and the creature; and blends the interests of all the redeemed, and of the angels, and of God, into one."

The Lord also spoke through the author of Galations saying, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" (5:6).

Since the crimes were committed in Texas, the criminal would be facing the death penalty for his violent crimes. Wondering if that would really ever happen in this “day and age” I started to move my mouse to the glowing red dot that would close the web page out, when something caught my eye.
There, tucked away at the bottom of an article I almost didn’t finish, was an astonishing ray of light that pierced through my laptop screen diving directly towards my heart.

“One of Stroman's biggest supporters is the man who survived his ordeal and testified against the defendant. Rais Bhuiyan is a devout Muslim who came to the United States to pursue his education. A decade ago, he was about to be married and was working an extra job.
He says a large "angry" man wearing a bandana, sunglasses and a baseball cap approached him in the store and asked, "Where are you from?" Confused, Bhuiyan asked, "Excuse me?" Immediately afterward, he remembered being shot, "the sensation of a million bees stinging my face, and then heard an explosion."
Bhuiyan believes that his attacker does not deserve to die and has created a website, worldwithouthate.org, to urge Texas to spare Stroman's life.
"In order to live in a better and peaceful world, we need to break the cycle of hate and violence. I believe forgiveness is the best policy, which helps to break this cycle," he said, calling himself a victim of a hate crime. "I forgave Mark Stroman many years ago. I believe he was ignorant and not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Otherwise he wouldn't have done what he did."
Bhuiyan traveled this month to Paris to urge the European Parliament to step in and file a formal request for Texas to commute Stroman's sentence to life in prison." -CNN

Romans 5:20-21 states clearlyThe law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“Grace might reign through righteousness?” 
“…to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord?” 
These statements are so direct, so cutting and powerful. No matter how “bad” the evil is, even a man who goes on a rampage and kills several random and completely innocent people, love still wins. Even as sin reigns in death, it's by definition limited. Life given by Jesus is limitless, and grace brings that to us. Limitless life given to us by him. Righteousness. 
It is grace that brings righteousness and eternal life to the throne. The darkness can't stand against the light.
Love is not arbitrary. It is not a word with a broad meaning and gratuitous generalities that allow for it to “transcend all religions or faiths.” It can function that way, but carefully defined in scripture is how we experience the triumph of love in all circumstances -- even the darkest of evil acts. 
Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”

“Breaking the cycle of hate and violence” will help to create a better, more peaceful world. Mr. Bhuiyan was right. But it is Jesus alone who can do that, and he promises he will. In forgiving the man who shot him in the head, Mr. Bhuiyan exemplified the love that Jesus has for his children, and the role we are to play in his kingdom.

Who am I supposed to forgive? Who am I supposed to love, that I might be able to boast in the hope that is our being a part of the glory of our Father -- a right given to me by Jesus?

And this is only part of the story.

1 comment: