When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it. Lewis B. Swede
Prayer of Confession
O God be gracious to us, for we have sinned against you. In our busyness we have failed to call on you. In our self-centeredness we have ignored your hurting people. We have uttered empty words and wearied you with empty deeds. We have been unwilling to see our own sinfulness and brokenness and have dared not believe that you can heal us. Come now to forgive and make new. Amen.
A Word from Scripture
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48
The prescription to love our enemies is often thought of as impractical and unwise. In fact, this teaching is widely held in all religions as a fundamental principle for pursuing relationships with others. Revenge, which repays evil with evil, only multiplies evil in the world, while love, by which we strive to overcome evil with good, spreads goodness in the world.
True love is unconditional and impartial -- thus the reminder that the sun shines down on all of us, friend, stranger, enemy alike. It is tested and proven by encounters with those who are difficult to love.
A Prayer for Those We Call "Enemy"
God of all mercy,
who loved us when we were your sinful enemies,
who saved us by your immeasurable grace,
who gave us a gift we did not deserve:
Let us imitate you by loving those who are yet our enemies.
Teach us to wish them the best of the life you intend each human to have,
and then pray and act so those wishes come true.
Teach us hope, so we know that with your blessing,
impossible dreams become reality.
Teach us faith, so we know that only the strength to stop hating
will halt cycles of suspicion, hatred, and violence.
Teach us forgiveness, which is a way of sharing your suffering love.
When the world looks at us and our congregations,
hearing our words and seeing our deeds,
may they know that you live among us,
and that they can come to learn the impossible and impractical -
loving those whom we call our "enemies."
A reflection on the forgiveness extended by the Amish of Nickle Mines, PA, to the family of Charles Roberts, who had killed five local school children, can be found by clicking here.