A devotional by Reverend Dr. Kevin Schwamb
Last week’s racially motivated killing of nine people in Charleston, South Carolina has captured the attention of the nation. But, the reaction of parishioners at Emmanuel A.M.E. church has reminded us that true Christianity and forgiveness are inseparable.
In the Lord’s Prayer (also known as the Model Prayer) we find six petitions. The first three are directed toward God and last three are intercessory in nature. The fifth petition asks that God would “…forgive us our debts (trespasses or sins) as we also have forgiven our debtors.” These words call attention to the fact that we all stand guilty before God and are debtors to divine justice. Without the cross of Jesus Christ there is no release from the penalty of sin, there is only death. Since Christ has paid the debt for our sins we are obligated, out of love, to extend forgiveness to others. At the same time, we know that God has appointed civil government to promote what is good and to punish what is evil. As followers of Jesus every attempt should be made to extend personal forgiveness, while maintaining that all sin behavior has consequences, including acts of violence.
The media has correctly picked up on the mysterious relationship between forgiveness and the Christian faith. Only those who have personally experienced forgiveness in Christ can extend this grace to others who, just like them, are completely undeserving of it. Let’s strive to demonstrate, through all our relationships, that forgiveness and faith are inseparable!