by Lawrence J. J. Leonard
Many great stories have been told and written
which describe people of good moral character.
Some in the face of temptation
and others in the face of anger and death
are tested from the point of heartbreak to the point of extinction.
If we as believers are called to be forgiving,
surely our actions will appear as defiant to some
because many of today’s “authoritarians”
do not understand the concept of forgiveness.
Can an argument over an interpretation be good cause to end a relationship?
An order from one in authority to break a promise or a moral code is cause.
There is a story in the Catholic Bible about an act of forgiveness.
(2 Maccabees 7) It concerns a Jewish woman with seven sons
who are arrested, imprisoned, and forced to eat pork
by a ruling king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
They rightly refuse.
His soldiers torture and brutally kill each boy in front of the mother
to force her and her sons to violate their beliefs.
Ironically, Antiochus IV is the first eastern king
of the Hellenistic/ Greek period to put his face on a coin.
The coins were inscribed: ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ “illustrious god.”
So, we can see where he stood when it came to: “Do as I say.”
This king was a warrior, just not so much a leader.
A true leader understands when enough is enough.
Needless to say, the woman and her sons were adamant
about keeping their promise to G_d
and they willingly accepted torture unto their own death.
The king saw them as defiant. The prisoners saw the king as overreaching.
How exactly is this family’s death an act of forgiveness?
Forgiveness is giving up a claim that someone has made on your behalf.
Even though ‘hurt people hurt,’ they are in need of human compassion.
We can show them mercy.
The woman and her sons each stated their case as believers to the king.
They gave up their claim to life as servants of the king and his authority.
When reading this particular passage
it is easy to hear their strained voices and imagine their cries and suffering.
These very same types of reactions and emotional upheavals happen
when we are slandered, rudely treated, beaten, or misunderstood.
If the woman and her sons actually trusted in the Lord as is written in the text,
then they could not feel resentment against the king,
even during the tortures.
They – in effect – pardoned the king and his cruel minions
because it was their spoken belief that:
“the Lord will have mercy on those who serve Him.”
Believers understand that the only way to get mercy is to give it.
In living out our beliefs as people of good moral character
we dispense forgiveness by
giving up physical conflict or one-upmanship in favor of spiritual peace.
We trust that the Lord will have mercy ON US
if first we show mercy to those around us
while keeping true to our beliefs.
Copyright © 1960-2017 Lawrence J. J. Leonard All rights reserved.