John Lewis Forgives

In today’s Gospel reading, the initial apprenticeship of the Twelve is over (Mk 6:7-13). Jesus sends them forth. They are to preach and drive out demons. Donning sandals is a metaphor for accepting discipleship. The instructions for the Twelve as they go forth are important. They are to take no food, no sack, and no money. In other words, they are to depend upon hospitality. When they are rejected, they are to shake the dust from their feet and move on (Peacemakers sometimes have to do that!). Preaching repentance, they drove out demons and healed the sick.
The power of the Twelve is still with us the people of God—the church—today. God is merciful and compassionate. In John 10:10 we read that God wants us to have life in abundance. God, as one translation aptly puts it, want us to have everything we need. Biblically, salvation is wholeness, health. God wants us to be healthy and whole.
Jesus is the healer. He is present and always shows up when we pray for healing for ourselves and for others. Many times, forgiveness is the key to healing and the fruit of having been healed. Elwin Wilson beat and bloodied John Lewis—civil rights activist then and congressman now—in a bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina. After the election, Wilson stepped forth and sought forgiveness for what he had done 48 years ago. John Lewis greeted him in his congressional office and forgave him. Wilson said, “I said if just one person comes forward and gets the hate out of their heart, it’s all worth it. But I hope there will be a bunch of people. Life’s short and we all go to the same place when we die.”
Forgiveness is a component of healing. The practice of generational healing in healing ministry enables people to come to grips with the hurts of their past and to let go. Generational healing often leads to long overdue forgiveness. Some people did not get the perfect parents they wanted. It may take years for them to come to grips with the hurts they suffered. It may take years for them to recognize the patterns in their family history. They need to come to terms with their past and let go of it through a healing process. Jesus brings physical and emotional healing. Many times sick people did not ask Jesus for anything. Jesus noticed their plight and had compassion on them. He initiated their healing.
Forgiveness has two components—repentance on the part of the wrongdoer and forgiveness on the part of the victim. Forgiveness exemplifies restorative justice. When we think of justice, we usually think of retributive justice—punishing the wrongdoer. “I want justice. I want the death penalty for the killer.”
Justice is about right order and right relationships. Biblical justice is restorative. It restores wholeness (health, healing) and relationships. Forgiveness helps us drive out the demons of hate and revenge. John Lewis could have said, “I want this man prosecuted for what he did to me. I want my pound of flesh.” Living the Christian nonviolence he has lived and preached, Lewis welcomed and forgave Wilson. Maybe Wilson will inspire others to come forth and get the hate out of their hearts.
“Forgive one another as I have forgiven you.” “Love one another.” “Return good for evil.” Live the Good News. Be healed and bring healing. You walk in the person, power and presence of Jesus.

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