Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Fragrance of Forgiveness

It took several years of  becoming more socialized through marriage and becoming a dad before I learned to appreciate the value of having a yard full of planted flowers In time, I would discover the marvelous therapy in flowers.

I remember when I plant a couple hundred bulbs around the parsonage in Bainbridge, GA,, with some encouragement from my everloving spouse, only to move before I could enjoy their beauty. When we talked later with the older couple that followed us, they described the incomparable beauty they were enjoying as a result of my labors. That was a pivotal experience in my early adult life.

After a lifetime of benefiting from the beauty and the wisdom of the flower kingdom, I suppose my all-time favorite flower is probably the rose--in spite of its being the thorny plant that it is. Also known as ”genus Rosa,” the thorny rose bush belongs to a plant family that includes more than one-hundred different plant species. Many are especially fragrant. Others produce jams, jellies, teas and a variety of oils. Still others go into making skin and beauty makeup products.

Like the thorny roses that I so love today, life presents more than its share of thorns and thorny experiences. Lost jobs, nasty divorces, abusing spouses, and unplanned tragedies fill our lives with thorny distractions; yet, few plants are more popular, more useful, or more lovely than the rose. Most of us put a premium on this wildly popular plant specimen with its exquisite blooms and its fragrant aroma. We value it among our loveliest of specimen plants, in spite of its being well-fortified with sharply-toothed leaves and thorny stems.

Like the rose, life delivers far more than its share of sharp thorns and prickly experiences. Thus it happened in a little known place called Chitana that Missionary Larry Lehman encountered one of life’s prickly situations. Lehman met a unique individual who taught him a life-giving lesson (Kreider/The Way of the Cross and Resurrection /Herald Press, 1978/134-35).

Most of the villagers in this isolated community feared this prickly personality because of his extraordinary strength as a man. It seems that all changed when this man encountered Jesus and experienced a personal life-transformation. This was also a time when strange things began to happen in the life of this much-feared man.

First, the man’s cow died, quite mysteriously. His pig died shortly thereafter, followed by his dog. Soon, the man’s neighbors began to avoid him. Threats became commonplace. First there were threats against his life. His family came next. Whereas tough times discourage some people, adversity seemed to draw this strong man of Chitana closer to God.

Thus, the Spirit of Christ cleansed his heart of hate and anger. He soon discovered that he had a new love for the people that mistreated him. As a result of the persevering faith of this man, thirty-five of his countrymen discovered new life for themselves in Jesus Christ.  The final indignity came when fifteen men drew up a paper and declared under oath that this man from Chitana had removed the images from their local church and burned them.

The authorities soon recognized this as a falsehood, of course, and as an attempt to destroy this new Christian and his peers acquitted him. When the day finally came for the judge to prosecute the accusers; their accusations proved false, and they became subject to perjury. Although this strong man had previously fought everyone who threatened him in anyway, he now pleaded for the judge to pardon the very enemies who tried to destroy him. This this strange story finally unfolded but only after the Judge granted the strongman’s request.

As a result of this one man’s witness, the number of believers in that community increased to one-hundred thirty-five by the end of that year. Pleading God’s pardon, and experiencing God’s forgiveness, added a fragrance to their living that more than compensated for all the thorns experienced earlier.

The lesson of the rose is simply this: by forgiving those who would destroy you, you add the beauty and fragrance of a blooming rose to your living. As Mark Twain discovered, forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that crushed it.

Or, as Jesus said, in as much as you did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto me.

From Warner’s World, I am walkingwithwarner,

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