Two is Better than One: The Courage to Forgive in Christ Alone

Edit: During the writing of this post, the Lord revealed one thing to me: while I was faithful in writing about many different prayer needs in Nigeria, Africa, and the people of it, I’ve been silent– both online and, sadly, in real life– on the many CRAZY, SIMPLY AWE-INSPIRING things Christ has done over the past year or so, especially in the last few months!!! Here I’ve been, praying for the freedom of the Chibok girls and the many other captives of the Boko Haram, but I haven’t spent time REJOICING in the fact that nearly 700 WOMEN AND GIRLS HAVE BEEN RESCUED BY THE NIGERIAN MILITARY FROM BOKO HARAM!!! This freedom is beautiful– more beautiful than one could express with words, though I pray the Lord gives me the words to sufficiently express it. Take some time today to PRAISE JESUS FOR THE AMAZING WAYS HE HAS ANSWERED PRAYER!!! Praise Him! Hallelujah!

The fights, long-held grievances and under-the-breath comments erupted into a riot like a domestic natural gas explosion. While the community seemed fine enough on the surface, just as natural gas has little to no visible qualities, one could sense the tension in the air: in the hot, arid heat of April, the scent– and sense– of violence could be noticeably felt and smelt. For years, hundreds of thousands of men and women had immigrated, calling South Africa their new homeland; yet, in this new place, they were treated with what was more than disdain. South Africans, resenting the presence of these immigrants, made sure to voice their hatred towards these foreigners whenever possible. The outcome, then, was not surprising, though it is full of sorrow: foreign businesses were vandalized, and foreigners were attacked– some escaping with only minor injuries, and some dying gruesome deaths, victims to the senseless, rageful hatred that filled the hearts of so many.

This story is not a new one. Xenophobia– or “the intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries”– has been an ongoing problem in South Africa for decades. Just as the definition suggests, this hatred, though rooted in the racism created by Apartheid [1], is largely fueled by irrational, ignorant viewpoints strengthened in numbers, similar to the crowd that was persuaded to condemn Jesus to death by the Pharisees (Luke 23:20-25, NIV). As these people attack, their victims usually fall prey to more than physical injuries: foreigners, being deeply hurt by this violence on an emotional and spiritual level, hold an equal amount of vicious hate for their persecutors. One lesson quickly becomes clear: where there is pain or damage, there is anger, hardening and guarding our hearts against those who have hurt us.

Rivalries and Walls
The malice between human beings in these xenophobic attacks has revealed a much larger problem: a fierce rivalry between South Africa (SA) and Nigeria. Competing for “economic and political dominance” [2], the relationship between the two is sensitive at best, with both countries sparing no opportunity to cut one another down.

In what may be the most bitter comments heard between the two in a long time, South Africa slighted Nigeria after it withdrew it’s diplomat from SA in protest to the xenophobia. While SA subtly expressed its hurt feelings over the notion that “a sisterly country [would] want to exploit such a painful episode for whatever agenda,” it fought back, bringing up painful past offenses. Fueled by Nigeria’s offensive action, South Africa highlighted Nigeria’s failure to quickly react in last year’s Lagos Church Hostile Collapse, which killed 84 South Africans. Because of Nigeria’s failure to quickly return the 84 bodies, SA cited they were so decomposed that “they could not be touched or viewed as required by [their] burial practice.” The hurtful words did not stop there. In what some would say is an unnecessary measure to shame Nigeria, South Africa took it a step farther: it mentioned that it hoped “the more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram [would] someday be reunited with their families,” spitefully referring to the Nigerian government’s failure to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls. Though true, South Africa’s pointed words did much more harm than they did help.

The Need for Jesus to Mend

Readers, here, I quote the apostle James: “My brothers, this should not be so” (James 3:10). The pointed, malevolent words and actions of men and their nations seen here are nothing short of heartbreaking and wrong. Yet, how often do we–  especially professing Christians– do this in our own lives? Our flesh, filled with self-preserving, proud instincts, jumps at the chance to retaliate against those who have hurt us. We, whether subtly or loudly, resent those who have caused us pain; but Jesus– the One we profess and desire to be “conformed into the of” (Romans 8:29)– had a diametrically different way of dealing with those who have hurt us.

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
(Matthew 5:38-46, ESV)

This teaching, as all of Jesus’ teachings, calls us to do something so unnatural for us that we need His help to genuinely follow it. Instead of standing for our own rights, bitterly holding onto the ways in which our rights have been violated, Jesus calls us to really, truly forgive. Instead of retaliating against those who have wounded us, He commands us to Love them sacrificially, putting down our desire to promote ourselves in favor of releasing each other from past mistakes and sin. He calls us to lay down our lives in order to glorify His in us. He does not call us to “pretend,” to downplay our wounds, or to devalue ourselves, staying in abusive situations. He calls us to face every ounce of the pain, accept every disparaging and unjust fact of reality, and proclaim that His Love wins over all of it, every single time. 

May our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, South Africa, and beyond– may we all— look to Him, the One who proclaimed His victory over the enemy, sin, and death itself– for the courage to closely follow suit. For, only in Christ are bruises used to bring about life, all to His glory and honor.  

[1] Source: “Xenophobia in South Africa: The Apartheid Legacy of Racism and ‘White Corporate Capitalism,’” Global Research.
[2] Source: “Xenophobia row exposes rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria,” Reuters.

Please pray for the men, women and children who have been injured and killed, and otherwise affected by this horrible trauma. Pray that they would come to know Christ, and in the process, rely upon Him to give them justice, mercy, and healing.

Please pray for the many men, women and children who have committed these crimes out of hatred and being wounded in and of themselves. Pray they’d come to know Christ, and would rely upon Him for the very same justice, mercy, and healing their victims need. Overall, pray for peace.

Pray for a revival and a true heart change in South Africa, Nigeria, and all of the world, for that matter. Pray that the Church in both Nigeria and South Africa would love one another, showing their countries who Christ really is, glorifying His name wherever they go. 

Pray for the peace between South Africa and Nigeria. Truly, in such desperate times of terrorism and other widespread problems, Solomon’s words ring true:

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” 
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

May our fellow men and women in Christ find the strength, compassion, and faith to obey Christ, mending what has been broken.

Do you Know Jesus?

Those who read Christ’s Words to His followers may gasp at the unbelievable nature of His command, wondering how on Earth any human could obey it. Many others discredit His words, seeing them as nothing more than flowery words. But, as stated in Philippians 2:1-8, Christ didn’t just say those words; He gave the ultimate example of them by Loving those who murdered Him upon that cross at Calvary. We are not called to obey any of His commands to earn right standing with Him; nor are we to try to “muster” the courage, strength, or love to obey His commands. The only way we can truly obey Christ is by first believing He forgave our sin debt in full, making us completely right with God by faith alone.

Unbelievable? Yes. But, Jesus exclaims to you and I the exact thing He exclaimed to His disciples 2 millennia ago:
“Stop doubting and believe!” (John 20:27). Read the amazing account of how God’s Love and Forgiveness changed the world 2,000 years ago here.

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