BY DR. Jim Denison | Christianpress.com
Ivan Mejia was a senior at Wylie East High School in the Dallas area. He planned to enlist in the Marines after graduating later this year. According to police, he and another boy were in a relationship with the same girl. The other teenager and a friend choked Ivan, pinched his nose, and stuffed a sock in his mouth until he suffocated. They were burying his body in a nearby creek when police caught them. The two teenagers remain in custody at a local juvenile detention center.
Ivan’s parents are as devastated as you might imagine. But their family spokesman has told reporters, “They hold no grudge, they are actually offering forgiveness.” They say their faith is giving them peace, as they know their son is with God. They can forgive murderers.
Matt Swatzell was driving home after a 24-hour shift as a firefighter when he fell asleep at the wheel. His car crashed into a vehicle driven by June Fitzgerald, a pregnant mother traveling with her then 19-month-old daughter, Faith. Faith survived, but June and her unborn baby were killed.
June’s husband, Pastor Erik Fitzgerald, eventually reached out to Matt. They met at least once every two weeks, attending church together and often eating meals at the local Waffle House. The two made a video, “A Friendship Forged in Forgiveness,” to tell their story. Erik explains, “You forgive as you’ve been forgiven. It wasn’t an option. If you’ve been forgiven, then you need to extend that forgiveness.” Matt says, “I can honestly say that without this friendship I don’t know where I’d be.”
A woman named Mary Johnson made global headlines last fall. Twenty years earlier, Oshea Israel shot and killed her only son at a party. At his sentencing, she told him that she forgave him. But when he was released from prison, she arranged for him to move in next door to her. She calls him her “spiritual son” and he calls her his “second mom.” They share their story at churches and other gatherings.
Enemies of Christianity such as Richard Dawkins claim that “religion is the root of all evil.” They argue that religion has been the cause of far more bad than good in the world. When I read stories like these, I am persuaded that the opposite is true. From universities founded by Christian denominations to faith-based hospitals and benevolence ministries, so much good has been done in the world by those who were motivated by their faith. Believers around the globe can testify, as I can, that Jesus was their strength when they needed strength the most.
I agree with theologian Frederick Buechner: “If we are to love God, we must first stop, look, and listen for him in what is happening around us and inside us.” What is he doing around you and inside you today?
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