Forgiveness Brings Freedom, Day 5

Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Kings 8:22-61.

A recurring theme in Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple is forgiveness. He asks God to hear the prayers of the people and forgive their sins. This emphasis on forgiveness is a key element in all our relationships.

To forgive is very difficult. It means letting go of something that someone “owes” us. But forgiveness brings freedom from the past; it brings freedom from anyone who has hurt us. To forgive means to write it off. Let it go. Tear up the account. It is to render the account canceled. “[God] forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14). He asks us to forgive others in the same way that he has forgiven us (see Matthew 18:21–35).

To forgive means we will never get from that person what was owed us. What is done is done and can’t be undone. But the result of forgiveness is freedom from that reality and the chance to have a future unfettered by resentment and grudges from the past. It takes the power away from others, and we get our lives back. It is an arrangement that cannot be matched.

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Justice in the Book of 1 Peter, Day 5

Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Peter 4:17-18 and 1 Peter 5:6-10.

First Peter offers hope that by living reverent and quiet lives, members of the new Christian community can avoid suffering. Clearly, though, Peter’s greatest hope is that by imitating Christ, who also suffered and did not pursue retaliation, Christians can be redeemed by God. He will set all things right (4:17–18). He will lift you up (5:6). He will make you strong (5:10).

An insight gained from 1 Peter and the life of Nelson Mandela: it is possible that the (unjust) suffering of an individual can mean the freedom of an entire people. More importantly, if an individual sacrifices his or her freedom for the sake of the freedom of the entire community, it is now up to the community to provide a space where all will enjoy being safe, free and blessed. That was so of Nelson Mandela; it is even more deeply and eternally true of Jesus.

What Mandela suffered on behalf of justice has created a new country, where justice should be the norm. And yet it is not. Many years after Nelson Mandela became the first democratic president of South Africa, unemployment ranks among the highest in the world, as do intimate partner violence and sexual violence. The rape and murder of women and children are a common occurrence; “corrective rape” of lesbians and homophobic attacks are on the increase; the HIV infection rate is among the world’s highest; and foreigners from neighboring African countries suffer xenophobic attacks. In short, Mandela’s suffering served for the liberation of a nation, but that liberation is far from complete.

And Jesus’ suffering served for the liberation of the whole world, but that liberation—of body, mind and spirit—is very far from perfected, even in the lives of those whom he has chosen. The church, of all places, should be where liberation is seen.

The first readers of 1 Peter were called to act justly by conforming to submissive behavior and suffering for a little while (3:6; 5:10). This was deemed righteous because such suffering was for the well-being and survival of the family of believers as they waited on the return of Christ. We too are called to act justly in our contexts of suffering—mindful that, as a family of believers, we may face different challenges than did the churches Peter first addressed.

— Miranda Pillay, South Africa (Excerpted from the book introduction to 1 Peter)

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