In our current climate of bitterness, guile and national infighting, I read some fresh words tonight from an old saint. At the recommendation of some dear and gracious brothers, I picked up a volume entitled Faith in the Fire by the late, eminent African-American pastor, preacher and community leader Gardner C. Taylor. These are words that so many of us would do well to take to heart:
Forgiveness is a part of the nature of God. Individuals and our nation can receive this forgiveness. In these trying and difficult days, all should bow to ask God for grace and humility, that forgiveness may be extended. God will not regard us with favor if we are forever flexing our muscles and proclaiming our richness and greatness. We need to admit our failures and confess our faults and ask for understanding as we strive to make up our delinquencies. A glad God will forgive. Therefore, let us also forgive one another. Remember, an ugly look, a harsh word may pour salt into an already aching heart. On the other hand, a kind word may be salve and balm to that poor, broken spirit. God will forgive as we forgive each other. Gardner C. Taylor, Faith in the Fire (SmileyBooks: New York), 3.
Our Lord and the apostles teach us the importance and centrality of forgiveness to the gospel:
7 "And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. - Matthew 6:7-15
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. - Ephesians 1:7-10
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:29-32
If we have experienced the forgiveness of God in Christ, let us indeed bring a kind word tomorrow. A word of good news, a gospel word, full of forgiveness and faith. Thanks Dr. Taylor for showing a good path that is particularly relevant once again in our present day.