#YourSuperpower is the podcast for October 6, 2019, A young man forgives his brother’s killer, hugs her, and falls in a long line of Christians who have witnessed to what it means to be the Lamb of God. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke17 #Forgiveness #Discipleship #Faith #MustardSeed
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/6/2019 The 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 17:5-10.
Last Wednesday, October 2, 2019, Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer was sentenced to ten years in prison after being convicted of killing Botham Jean, a 26 year old man, in his own apartment while he was watching TV and eating ice cream. Guyger, from the moment the tragic event happened, said she got lost in her apartment building, went to Jean’s apartment one floor above hers, and mistakenly thought he was an intruder who was lying in wait for her in her apartment.
Trained to shoot in the middle of the body, Guyger shot to kill Jean. She could have received up to life in prison, but received ten years, a controversial sentence for the white female police officer. Yet, that is not what swept the national coverage. There were no riots in Dallas. There were protests for sure, but there were no riots. I believe, although it is possible I am wrong, that the reason there were no riots was because of the victim’s brother.
Brandt Jean, the 18 year old brother of Guyger’s victim, Botham Jean, sat in the family portion of the sentencing phase and said that he had forgiven her. It was a stunning testimony and video of it is enough to make me weep with amazement. The young Christian man said to her, “I can only speak for myself. I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I’m not going to say I want you to rot and die. I love you just like anyone else. I personally want what is best for you. I don’t even want you to go to jail. I know this is what Botham would want you to do: give your life to Christ.” Then, he asked if he could hug his brother’s killer in the courtroom before she had served one second of the official time she will have to spend in jail. The image is remarkable.
It is remarkable, breathtaking, and amazing because we live in a society that thinks that an “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth” is justice. We do not realize that this injunction for an eye for an eye in the Old Testament was to limit the amount of revenge we humans want to take out on others. You may not exact more than an eye for an eye, even though you want to take more and probably would. Jesus tells us that we should not seek even an eye for an eye, but to forgive our enemies.
We are amazed, but we ought not be. Brandt Jean is now in a list of Christians who have witnessed to the power of forgiveness wrought in the Cross. The Amish parents of children killed in a school shooting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania went that day to the house of the killer’s parents to extend forgiveness. The people of Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina went to the jail on the day that Dylan Roof was arraigned to tell him through closed circuit television that he was forgiven.
Forgiveness is the hallmark of Christianity because the purpose of Christ was and is to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us! I say it over and over again, and it bears repeating: he came to be one of us, born our birth, walk our walk, talk our talk, live our life, be falsely charged, fraudulently convicted in a Jim Crow trial, beaten in the custody of the police, forced to carry his own instrument of execution, and executed cruelly and inhumanely by the very people he loved and came to save. He endured all of that pain and suffering because it meant that he could set us free. So, in the midst of our torturing of the Son of God, he does what we would never think to do: he does what is best for us. He saves us and forgives us, even for killing someone else; even for killing him. Like Brandt Jean said, God wants what is best for us, not what we deserve. We, as Christians, give the forgiveness that we want for ourselves because it is best for us.
We can see in the Gospel of Luke today that the apostles wanted something very good, “Increase our faith,” they said. Well, that seems sort of out of the blue. They were just walking along and said, “Increase our faith?” Not really, it was in response to Jesus telling them that “temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to him by whom they come.” Then he states that we should forgive. Jesus says, “If [your brother] sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent’, you must forgive him.” It is to this that the apostles say, “Increase our faith!”
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. It is not an emotion, it is an action. If we waited until we wanted to forgive, then it would be a long time coming. Yes, I do support us not forcing people to forgive and let them come to it in their own time, but what we are waiting for is not an emotional breakthrough. We are waiting for the determination of being a Christian to come through. Brandt Jean had an entire year to process his brother’s murder. He had an entire year to think through and pray through the pain Amber Guyger inflicted on his family.
The Amish of Lancaster have in their genes a doctrine of peace. They know that peace relies on forgiveness. Their process is ongoing. They live a life that is based upon forgiveness. The African American community of Mother Emmanuel Church in South Carolina are part of a larger community that must forgive the injustices of race on a continuing basis or they will be consumed by anger. Yet, forgiveness is not an emotion, it is a state of mind and purpose wrought in the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is part and parcel of holding up the Body of Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world! Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the Lamb!” You may note that when we hold up the Body of Christ during the Lamb of God, he has been broken and we do not lift up the Body in the bread in the whole.
As the master expects the servant to wait on him as part of his duties of the day, forgiveness is the expectation of what it means to be a Christian. It is the ground floor. After we have gone to church every Sunday, read our Bibles, prayed every day, tithe, and serve the church in one or more ministries, we are expected to forgive. You may say, like the apostles, “I need more faith to do that, Father.”
In Greek, there is a word, “ei”. It has two meanings in particular. In one context it means “If” as in “If you had it”. In another context, it means “since”. When we hear the Devil say to Jesus in Luke 4, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” it is really “Since you are.” I believe that this is the case here. The same word appears here in Luke 17.
This passage, I believe, should be translated, “Since you have the faith as a grain of mustard seed [you can move mountains].” We all have at least a little faith or we wouldn’t [be sitting here] [be listening to this podcast]. We fail to realize that we have a superpower. What little faith we have will cause us to think twice about how we are to respond to life. I fail. You fail. We all fail a lot. Yet, when we respond in faith, at least a little it can make a world of difference. We have the faith necessary to be Brandt Jean. We have the faith necessary to be the Amish of Lancaster and the faithful of Mother Emmanuel.
This is our mission, if we choose to receive it. We can forgive like we are supposed to, and we do not need a trophy for it. It is part of who we are who follow the Lamb. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian