Tag Archives: Love

How to Love a Murderer

Just how powerful is the gospel of Jesus Christ? I know a textbook answer but I must admit I doubt it frequently in the real world. Several weeks ago I was floored by its work in one woman’s life.

It all started from here.

It all started from here.

Luwero is a small town in Uganda about 64 km outside of Kampala (that’s about 40 miles for people like me). It is the home of Luwero Presbyterian Church where we spent some time. My teammate Ben Church and I were invited to go out into the community with some of their members to do some evangelizing.

The very first day Ben and I arrived late to meet the others. But it would turn out to be perfect timing for the Lord to work. We met Shadrach and Gladys there and prayed before setting out. We first came to an Anglican woman’s home and spoke with her and found out she already believed in Jesus. Praise the Lord.

Next we went not 100 yards behind her house where four Ugandan men were doing some construction. They were working on a small brick building with a roof but no doors or windows and a dirt floor. Among the four men was a guy wearing a kofia, a brimless hat worn especially by Muslims here. He was leaning up against a wall overseeing the other three men. One of the other men was inside plastering a wall and the other two were outside mixing the cement with shovels and bringing it into the plasterer.

We went up to them and began talking with them. Ugandans are especially friendly and love visitors. If you show up at dinner time then you will be given a seat at the table and given first dibs on the food already prepared. Also it can take hours to go a short walk because it is custom to greet and talk with those you know and see on your way. Americans can be more task oriented but Ugandans love to visit.

When we arrived, Shadrach did most of the introduction. He then had Ben talk to them about the good news of Jesus. He gave a timely illustration about how God is building the world and using various pieces to do it. The pieces have rebelled and need help and forgiveness. Jesus is the only one who can offer this. Then I followed that up with something similar using his building illustration.

After some time the plaster mixers moved inside to further help the other guy and it was just the kofia wearer outside. It turns out he is a Muslim and his name is Medi. It wasn’t long until Gladys and Shadrach were speaking to him in Luganda even though he spoke English. I think it was because it was easier for them. Ben and I stood there silently praying because we had no idea what they were saying.

Ben and I went out evangelizing and saw God work powerfully.

Ben and I went out evangelizing and saw God work powerfully.

Ben and I had to leave so we had to interrupt them. As we were concluding, Medi said through interpretation that we had spoken a “good word” to him about Jesus. He wanted to know more and we gladly discussed talking with him again. The other three men also wanted to hear more and Shadrach and Gladys also discussed another meeting with them.

It wasn’t until we got back to the car that Ben and I realized just how powerful the gospel had been in that encounter. It turns out Gladys knows Medi. You see, Medi is the man who murdered her son 7 years ago. Medi is the one responsible for taking her beloved son from her. My jaw hit the floor when I heard this. I had no idea they knew each other yet alone the current situation of the relationship from our time talking with him.

Her son was 26 years old and fell sick for two hours and died. Medi had bewitched her son. Here in Uganda, when something unexpected like this happens it is often blamed on the spirits or bewitching. I asked another Ugandan about the situation and he said it was definitely a bewitching.

If you are a Westerner reading this then you probably have a very skeptical view of this interpretation of events. If you are an African reading this then you probably believe it was a bewitching. Regardless of the position you hold, what you cannot deny is that Gladys believes Medi is responsible for the death of her son. This is the important fact here. She believes he murdered her son. And Medi apparently feels he did too.

After her son died, that night Medi fled his home. Since then whenever he is about to walk past Gladys on the road, he runs away to avoid her. His wife and daughter have both come to Gladys to express remorse for him bewitching and killing her son. It seems both parties believe that Medi killed Galdys’ son.

I was eager to find out more and hear what Gladys said to Medi. There are many options for how this could go. Did she curse him or utter vicious words or tell her how much she hates him? No. What she said demonstrates the gospel so very well.

She told him, “I forgive you.”

Gladys knows gospel forgiveness

Gladys knows gospel forgiveness

Those are three little words that take gospel power to say to the man who killed your son. I shudder to think what I would say in that situation. No wonder Medi said we had good words. The grace Gladys showed him had power.

That is the gospel power I need in my life. That is the power I need to love my family yet alone my enemies. I need that gospel power every day. It is on offer through the grace of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection are the means to that power.

Gladys demonstrates well one of my favorite verses Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While Medi is the murderer of her son, she chose to forgive. She can only do that because the truth of Romans 5:8 has found its home in her.

Pray for Medi. I am sad to say that we did not get to meet again with him. I am not sure if Shadrach or Gladys were able to meet with him. But I pray he would believe in Jesus and know His forgiveness and power. Also pray you and I would know the power of the gospel in our lives every day.

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Olympic Glory

I got my wife back about a month ago.  That is the same time the Olympics ended.  She loves to watch the Olympics and this was our evenings for two whole weeks.  Now, I too love the Olympics but I draw the line at rhythmic gymnastics.  She watches all she can.

She is not alone as NBC issued an ad in the USA Today thanking everyone for making this Olympics the most watched event in American television history.  What makes the Olympics so intriguing?

Every year, there are world championships where you can find many of the most popular events and athletes competing.  Yet, these events do not garner half of the attention of the Olympics.  My wife has never watched them and neither have I.  The reason the Olympics are much more popular than the world championships is the fact that the athletes are not competing just for themselves but for their countries.  Charles Barkley, a hall of fame NBA basketball star that played on the 1992 Dream Team, said that there was nothing like playing for his country.  So, the connection to something bigger than the individual makes the Olympics compelling.

There is a longing everyone has for something larger than themselves.  Lest you doubt, would you want to be accused of being a narcissist?  One of the most popular recent movies, Iron Man, has Tony Stark take his self-serving talents and turn them into others-serving talents

It is the call of Christ, the Christian life, which realizes this bigger-than-self ideal.  This call is to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31, Matthew, 22:37-40, cf. Leviticus 19:18).  Only when we are connected to Christ can we receive the power to make this others-serving love a reality.

There is nothing bigger than God, in any sense of the word bigger.  Thus, to love Him is to be connected with something bigger than ourselves.  It connects us to His love and His eternal plan of redemption.  When Adam and Eve rebel (Genesis 3:6-7), He promises to make right what they have put wrong (Genesis 3:15).  God even offers them animal skins to cover their nakedness which is a direct result of their rebellion (Genesis 3:21).  The rest of the Bible is an unfolding of the promise of Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the seed of the serpent.

This promise of ultimate victory finds its fulfillment in Christ, the seed of Eve, who crushes Satan and his minions.  He wins the war by dying on the cross and rising again from the grave.  In this act, the plan of God to redeem the world is ultimately displayed.  The power of Jesus’ resurrection is the power that gets us out of narcissism and into loving our neighbor as ourselves.

We cannot be part of something bigger than God and He is concerned about us.  He demonstrates this by sending Christ to die for us while we are rebellious.  Taking hold of this truth by faith in Christ is the only way we can be a part something truly bigger.  Everything else is self-love.

Loving God is the beginning of the call to living for something bigger than ourselves.  Jesus says the second part is like the first: to love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is how we tangibly participate in the larger mission of God.  However, we will not practice others-love unless we are “          looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”  If Jesus were only concerned for his own wellbeing, safety, and comfort, then he would not be the Savior of the world.  Yet because he took joy in the bigger picture of loving others, He died for our rebellion and rose again that we might have life.

How might this impact our lives?  I can name a few.  The first is what many refer to as “me and Jesus.”  Too many times I have heard people say all they need is Jesus.  This is true on its face.  But as an excuse not to be part of a church (i.e. others-love) or otherwise live the life they want, it only short circuits their participation in God’s grand redemption.  Another way is with our marriages.  We have a cause outside of ourselves to join.  Not only that, but we should see our spouses as someone to love and nourish, not fill our needs only.  The last thing I will mention is for those that are not followers of Christ.  If you feel empty or that you were meant for more, then talk to a Christian or find a Bible and read it.  Christ wants to make you part of something bigger.

There is something in all of us looking for something more, something bigger.  We don’t have to participate in the World Championships only.  Christ is calling us to compete in the Olympics.  In Christ we have this fulfilled.  He has shown us the way.  By trusting in Him alone, we are part of the biggest thing possible.

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