No doubt racism is still a raging and important issue in our nation. As a middle-class white woman, no doubt I don’t fully understand it.
America’s most recent, devastating tragedy, a shooting spree in a church, underscores reality again. And my soul grieves with the families and friends whose loved ones died.
I’m thankful for the response of the Charleston community. I’m thankful riots haven’t broken out, but rather prayer. I say with these brothers and sisters-
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) The gospel creates unity.
But the problem is bigger than racism alone. We live in a broken society, a world fractured by the sin that courses through every person. I need only lift my head to see shattered fragments all around: shootings, bombings, abuse, rape, racism, terrorism, war, corruption, scandals, adultery, identity crises, abortion…
In my lifetime alone, the list is exhaustive. Gulf War. Oklahoma City Bombing. Columbine. 9/11. Sandy Hook Elementary School. And I will not neglect to look at my own brokenness. I see my own sin.
So we cry for peace and we cry for change!
As I watched the suspect’s bond video this morning, a message from the victims’ families resonated across the court room.
“I forgive you.”
“May God have mercy on your soul.”
“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most, Christ. So that He can change you. He can change your ways no matter what happened to you.”
“I admit I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry… But we have no room for hate, so we have to forgive.”
Over and over families offered forgiveness. More powerfully, they pointed the man who destroyed their families to One who will restore everything. Issuing a clear call to repentance, they pleaded for this man’s soul.
Not explicitly stated, but certainly implied was an undercurrent that forgiveness was possible because they had been forgiven.
So here’s what I want to say.
In a world gone mad, Jesus is the only hope. He alone will make things right. He forgives because He paid the penalty for sin.
Since God is holy, forgiveness couldn’t merely be a wave of the hand, a dismissal of penalty. Rather forgiveness cost something. Atonement was absolutely necessary.
Issuing forgiveness cost the Father His Son, and it cost the Son His life. The legal demands of sin no longer bind me because Jesus took them! The Great Substitute. On the cross He became sin so that we could be righteous.
These grieving families can forgive because they have been forgiven. They have been forgiven because Jesus satisfied God’s righteous wrath.
How beautiful the response of these dear ones! Turn to Christ. Run to King Jesus, who will one day make all things right. Amid a pain that hurts “every fiber” of their bodies, they offered Jesus. Such grace.
It was our second Thanksgiving married, but our first Thanksgiving to cook the big feast! I was so excited about our 20 lb turkey we got for $4.65. We were cooking only for four, but I suppose we had enough for about 15! Jon and I had so much fun researching turkey preparation and cooking methods. We even watched a YouTube video. Of course we were having all the sides. And you can’t forget my mom’s famous pumpkin pies. So here we are, the night before thanksgiving enjoying the time together as we prepared for the next day. Jon and I were a great team in the kitchen, and cooking together was always quality time we both enjoyed. That is, of course, after we decided who was head chef and who was sous chef for a particular meal. I’m pretty sure I was head chef for Thanksgiving.
We were having such a great time, but then somehow an argument arose. I have no idea what it was about! But isn’t that the way it is most times? The hurt feelings or the selfishness seems so important at the time, but then later you can’t even remember what caused the rift. I guess that’s the beauty of true reconciliation. I do know however, that I was the fighter. I never realized until I got married how stubborn and selfish I am. And I think it’s not an exaggeration to say I started the vast majority of our “discussions.”
So on this occasion (and in many others), I was so angry and wanted to continue to fight even when Jon calmly said, “We’re not ready to talk about this right now.” You see, he consistently handled disagreements with a gospel-centered, unselfish perspective. And it made me mad. Because each time he responded rightly, I saw my own guilt and selfishness. So what did I do this time? I grabbed fresh cranberries and lobbed them at his head as hard as I could. Yes I did. With each stinging phrase from my mouth, came a cranberry flying from my hand. Yeah, I know, ridiculous. But by this time, I wanted him to sin. I wanted get a reaction to make me feel better about myself. So I kept pitching cranberries.
Then Jon did something that caught me totally by surprise. Wordlessly, he bent down and starting picking them up. “Stop picking them up! Stop picking them up Come on! Fight me! !” I shouted, outraged. But he just kept picking them up. I was livid. So I switched to cooking utensils. Now I did have at least some semblance of rational thinking because I consciously avoided the breakable items. 🙂 And I did at least stop chucking things at his head. But one by one, I grabbed a utensil from the flower pot on the counter and slammed it to the floor. He just kept picking everything up. Finally realizing that my tantrum wasn’t getting anywhere, I ran out of steam, and stomped down the hall slamming the bedroom door.
I know, looking back, this event is pretty stinkin’ comical, and we laughed about it many times later when were were talking with newlywed couples. But in the moment, I was so angry at his selflessness. His humility starkly contrasted my pride and obstinate fighting. As I lay on our bed fuming, the Holy Spirit started breaking my heart. I finally realized my sin. God reminded me that Jesus died for that selfishness. He reminded me that Jon could only respond the way he had by the power of Christ in his life. He reminded me that my sin “threw” much worse than cranberries at Jesus. I had to remember that because of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection, I had been chosen and reconciled. I had been served when I hated Him. Just as Jon knelt, and served when I was being wretched, Jesus showed the ultimate humility on the cross for me. So I repented and with broken heart returned to my husband.
Another occasion I was so angry that I wanted to hurt Jon with my words in any way I could. I wanted to cut him to the core. And I did. And again, as I lay in our bedroom fuming, the Holy Spirit started pricking my soul. But this time Jon came in and laid on the bed too. I told him I wasn’t ready to talk yet. And he just laid there and let God work. When I rolled over, he immediately sought forgiveness from me before I could say anything. As if my heart wasn’t broken enough! I was the wretch! I was wrong! So as I cried because of my shame, he stroked my hair and said, “I adore you. You are so precious to me. You are so beautiful, and I love you”. And in that moment, it was Christ speaking, not Jon. How lavish is the love of Jesus! “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). In my heart I realized, “Ami, Jon is teaching you Christ.” This is Jesus’ love. I am completely unworthy of it, but He calls me precious. He adopted me, and He calls me His own.
So these are some of Jon’s Gospel Lessons.
They were not lessons he was consciously trying to teach, but nonetheless so powerful because he lived them. I wanted to share these precious memories, so folks would continue to know the man my husband was. This blog is his legacy. He taught me Christ everyday through his sacrificial love. Yes, of course, there were times when Jon failed or when he sinned against me. In most arguments, not just one person is wrong. There is usually selfishness on both sides. But Jon taught me how to argue to the glory of God. He taught me how to clarify and ask questions. He taught me how to forgive quickly and how to seek forgiveness quickly. And slowly God began to transform my heart. It’s only by His grace that I can look back and see the fighter changing. In the last year or so, our arguments became much fewer and farther between, and less volatile when they did happen. And when I think of arguments, I also rejoice to think of the some of the sweetest times that followed.
So Gospel Lessons. So some of you might be thinking, “I don’t quite get it. What do you mean?” By Gospel I mean the truth that Jesus lived a perfect life and never sinned. Jesus died a horrible death on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day. I mean that I deserved God’s righteous wrath, but Jesus took it on Himself and absorbed all of it. God paid the penalty for my sin. He became sin, who knew no sin that I would become righteous. (II Corinthian 5:21) The gospel is the truth that I was blind, lame, dumb dead, and in desperate need of a Savior.
Jon titled this blog “When Mercy Found Me:Living Life Through the Lens of the Gospel” And that’s what he did. That’s what “gospel-centered” means. It means that I need the truth of Gospel to radically influence my daily life. I need to know its facets and be able to unpack them for myself. All the truth I’ve given above wasn’t just for the moment I first believed. I need it every day. Especially now. It is the truth that Jesus reconciled me to God, that enables me to in turn forgive and seek forgiveness from others. It is the truth that I have been redeemed, bought back, purchased, that reminds me that my my life is not my own! It reminds me even in the midst of my deepest suffering that I belong to God. It is the truth that if God would give His own Son for me, shall He not do all things for me that are good? This grief is the craziest place I’ve ever been, but consistently God keeps leading me “to the Rock that is higher than I.” He is the One carrying me!
This post is not about me. I’m a mess. I still miss my husband and want him back. But this is the way I process things. So, I want you to see Jon. But mostly I want you to see Jesus.