Roberto Rivera and John Stonestreet on Asia Bibi, the Nigerian Elders, and the Radical Nature of Christian Forgiveness

Photo courtesy: Phil Thep/Unsplash

What sets Christianity apart from all other world religions? Certainly the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, but what else?

Christianity grounds a respect for all human life, but so do other religions such as Jainism and Wicca. Christianity has a robust moral framework that holds all of us to a high standard of behavior, but so do Orthodox Judaism and Islam, especially when it comes to human sexuality.

But what about forgiveness? Jesus’ radical command to not only forgive, but to forgive “seventy times seven,” has no equivalent in any other faith. Add that to the command to love, bless, and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, and now we have something that only Christianity offers the world—something the world would desperately miss if it ever lost it. After all, when Christians forgive as we are instructed to do, the world can’t help but take notice.

In a recent interview with the BBC, Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years waiting execution on a trumped-up charge of blasphemy, recalled her mistreatment, including “having her neck put in a brace tightened by a key and pulled on a chain by guards.” She described how much of a sham her “trial” was, and how she was not even allowed to say anything in her own defense. She talked about the pressure she faced to renounce her faith.

And then she said, “I am not angry at all. I have forgiven everyone from my heart. And there is no hardness in me.” She then offered kind words for the government of Pakistan, saying she was “proud” of her country for ultimately freeing her.

Also last week, four Nigerian elders gathered together to worship in the charred remains of their church, just two days after terrorists from Boko Haram burnt it and two other churches to the ground, destroyed parts of the village, and kidnapping a few of the women there. During the service, the elders prayed for God’s “forgiveness, mercy, and cleansing of the land.”

Of course, the idea of forgiveness isn’t unique to Christianity. Other religions and even secular worldviews sometimes talk about the need for forgiveness, or at least of “letting go of the past.”

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Source: Christian Headlines