“OH MY GOD!”
I remember flinching every time I heard people use those commonly used phrases when I first arrived here in Canada. Growing up going in church, I always used to hear the Ten Commandments, and none of them baffled me as much as “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.” Not understanding what it meant, I just tried not to seem defiant and I kept my confusion to myself.
Recently, I decided to seek to understand what that commandment did mean. Then oddly enough, European conquests, slavery and colonization came to mind. I know that today, many of the people in countries that have lived under an oppressive power (from another nation) still harbour bitterness in their hearts, and it gets passed on from generation to generation. I’m a product of that process. This seemed like an interesting tangent to my train of thought, so my fervour to seek understanding was intensified. I asked, “Why were some of the conquests done in the name of God, but the injustices committed so vile?”
Then it clicked. The reasons for most of these conquests were selfish and vain. And it just so happened that these selfish motivations were mixed with a warped, religious view of God. Many people are still angry at the descendants of Europeans who colonized their countries and at God. I’ve felt that way too, in the past. But I’ve learnt that God isn’t really like that. He doesn’t condone those acts done in His name. In fact, He hates injustice.
Indignation rising, I then asked myself, “Where was He?” I soon discovered that He was right there all along, working to stop it. The end of many injustices is not celebrated enough — the end of apartheid, the freedom of colonized countries, the closing of residential schools, and the abolition of slavery, to name a few. Injustices still exist, but God is changing hearts and the world with these hearts. I was relieved and concurrently, my heart sank. Was anguish as fresh in the hearts of the afflicted as it was in mine? I felt like there was no point in forgiving unless it would bring consolation and healing. But I was challenged by this question, “Does being bitter and unforgiving make anything better?”
I used to feel so wronged. I used to feel justified in returning evil for evil: “They made me this way. What they did to me was so much worse.” I was blind to my own folly. However, I soon discovered that bitterness didn’t make the me or the world any better. I was told that forgiveness was the solution, but if that were so, why did it still hurt so bad? Why did it feel like forgiveness was not enough?
As I searched, the answers slowly began to trickle in. The answer that has changed me the most is the one God gives. He showed me that He understood that it hurt and it was hard. God taught me that forgiving was not ignoring the hurt or the wrongness of an injustice. It was acknowledging that what was done was wrong and choosing to let it go and love those who don’t necessarily love you back. As I read the Bible and spoke with Him, He showed me that He is the very definition of justice and He hates injustice (an example of this is found in Isaiah 10:1-3).
What immediately gave me comfort is that one day, as supreme judge, He will execute His judgement and justice will be served. But what burst my bubble was that I would be judged as well because I have wronged others. My heart leapt when I then discovered that I wouldn’t have to be condemned, because God, who created us to be like Him and loves us, had chosen to make His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment for every single thing we have done wrong. God was just: evil was punished. But God was also gracious: He took our full punishment on Himself. I was excited to discover that from Jesus, I could learn how to be like God: just and forgiving.
“And how exactly might that work?” you might ask. I learnt that to be capable of having a heart and actions that are devoid of hypocrisy, but full of passion for justice and forgiveness, I had to see how much I had been forgiven. There is something humbling about seeing how common folly is to us all, and knowing that the one person we always offend who is also immune to folly, chooses to forgive us for our own. If Jesus took on injustice Himself so we can be forgiven, how much more shall we forgive a smaller debt, if we have been forgiven so great a debt? And Jesus doesn’t just expect to find this divine mercy within ourselves, but He says that we should submit our lives to his guidance and instruction so that we can be capable of being as loving and forgiving as He is to us.
And from what I’ve seen so far, that’s part of God’s plan to bring justice to reign on our planet. In order to bring justice to our world, we have to stand justified before Him first. And it is a process of transformation, of learning to receive forgiveness, of healing from deep hurts, and learning to reflect His love by choosing to forgive those who offend us, even if they aren’t sorry! I don’t know about you, but I’d say that takes supernatural strength. And God empowers us to love justice as well as to forgive and love our oppressors by inviting us to find the strength to do so in His Son, Jesus. He wants us to discover comfort and hope, and I have begun to find it in abundance. I have also come to encounter God’s healing from past and present injustice.
How are you trying to heal from the pain of injustices you’ve experienced?