Yesterday I took a friend to see the doctor. As I waited in the lobby, I decided to go “old school”, and rather than spend the time scrolling through the social media apps on my phone, I grabbed an old copy of the Reader’s Digest magazine that was laying on the table next to me. About halfway through, I found a story about former president Jimmy Carter which caught my attention. I was in high school during his time in office, and I have a lot of memories of those years in general, and of President Carter’s presidency specifically.
The story was about the funeral of Hubert Humphrey, a former vice-president of the United States. When he died, people came from all around the world to pay their respects. The author described it as a time of “open welcome” in Washington DC - where all political interests were set aside in order to honor the former VP. However, one person showed up who was not welcome - former President Richard Nixon. It hadn’t been very long since he had dragged himself, and the country, through the humiliation of the Watergate Scandal - so he wasn’t exactly at the top of anyone's invitation list.
When he came in the room, all eyes turned to watch, and conversations stopped. The author said the feelings of resentment and rejection toward President Nixon were palpable. And then, Jimmy Carter, the serving U.S. President, walked into the room. President Carter was from a different political party than Nixon, but as he moved to his seat he noticed former President Nixon standing all alone. So Carter changed course, walked over to Richard Nixon, held out his hand, and smiling said “Welcome home, Mr President!”
What an amazing story of forgiveness and compassion! And as I read it, I remembered that Jimmy Carter had been raised in the church, and was actually a Sunday School teacher when he decided to run for office. Regardless of whether or not we agree with his political positions, I think we can agree that his response to President Nixon gives us a great example of how God calls His children to live - with forgiveness and compassion.
The apostle Paul puts it like this: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” God has forgiven us, and one of the reasons He has done that is so that we can pass that forgiveness on to others. It’s one of the ways we show the world who God is, and what He is like. Ephesians 4:32 says it like this: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” When we accept God’s forgiveness, it’s so that we can serve Him - and one of the significant ways we can do that is by forgiving others.
So today, let’s be people of forgiveness. Let’s consider the folks we struggle to forgive - and let’s humbly go to God and ask Him to help us let go, and forgive as He has forgiven us.