Yesterday, we talked about the importance of listening actively in order to be a force for reconciliation in an increasingly divided society. Today, I want to offer the second of three practices that I believe can empower you to be an ambassador for change in these challenging times, and that is to learn to forgive. Unfortunately, seeds of bitterness, discrimnation, and judgement can take root in our hearts, often without our even realizing it. This was the case for me as a young man recently saved. After becoming involved at Crenshaw Christian Center, a black mega-church in L.A., I was attending a service when the pastor gave an altar call and invited anyone who needed to be set free from any sort of racism or unforgiveness to come forward for prayer. As I walked to the front, I recalled an episode from a couple of years earlier during which my friend and I had been involved in a fight with a group of hispanic kids. At the age of 14, we were scrappy anyway, and we loved to do rowdy things, but that particular day, we were at the park and they roughed us up pretty good. As we walked away dirtied and bruised, my friend uttered a very demeaning phrase having to do with the ethnicity of our perpetrators, and without even realizing it, his words began taking root in my heart. When the woman from the church put her hands on me and prayed in the Spirit that I would be set free from the prejudice that had me in its clutches, I was finally able to forgive them. However, as a middle-aged man, I’ve often wondered what would have happened had that bitterness been allowed to fester for all these years, and I shudder at the thought.
My friend, to be an agent of healing in the world, it’s imperative that you intentionally forgive. While this certainly applies to individuals who have wronged you, it also applies to the attitudes of your heart where it concerns groups of people. Wherever you are today, I invite you to ask the Lord to search your soul and shine His light on any prejudice that has taken root based on past experience. Now more than ever, it’s vital to be liberated from the kind of thinking that lumps entire populations together and labels those holding different views as inherently less than. Whether it’s a particular race or even a political party, when you look at those who are not like you, choose to see precious souls made in Christ’s image as opposed to members of a group with which you don’t agree. Forgive yourself and others, affirm their divine worth and dignity, and you will be an unstoppable force for God-centered change in a frightened and fractured culture!