Earlier this month I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of men that have been to and worked in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As I listened to their stories I was reminded that cultures really are and can be drastically different.  One of the men shared a story that really opened up my eyes to how truly blessed we are here in America. 
A rather wealthy man from Afghanistan was visiting Grinnell on a business trip (he is investing in and starting up a soy bean farm).  In meeting with the Grinnellian, he had the opportunity to meet his family.  When the Grinnellian’s son said “Yes, Sir” after being told when to do the business man was taken aback by it.  He asked him what would have happened if he hadn’t said “sir.”  The Grinnellian was a little confused by the question so for clarification the business man asked what would have happened if his daughter ended up pregnant outside of marriage.  The Grinnellian said that he would be deeply disappointed, frustrated, and that he would forgive her.  This took the business man by surprise.  He stated in his country there is no forgiveness.  To show how things have been corrupted in a world where forgiveness is non-existent, we were told of another story concerning this same man.  He got caught up in an affair.  He was married to a very wealthy woman had the two had amassed quite the empire (billions of dollars).  He could stand to lose everything (her family was wealthier than his).  The affair took a rather strange turn as the mistress was now blackmailing the man.  She threatened to expose him if he ever quit seeing her.  Because he lived a world without forgiveness, he was honestly considering killing his mistress and making her disappear so that his indiscretion would never be found out.
In a world where forgiveness cannot be found, it was deemed better, wiser and safer to commit murder.  I want you to let that sink in.  I get that such an action would likely floor most of us (although we often hear of love triangles in our own country).  It just shocked me to hear that this man was willing to commit murder as if it were no big deal (and the fact that he would share it so nonchalantly terrified me).  But, this is the world of Muslims.  They don’t have a forgiveness based salvation, rather that have a performance based salvation.  When they are judged worthy of eternal life all their good deeds are placed on one side of the scale and their bad deeds are placed on the other side of the scale.  Whichever side weighs more will determine their eternity.  They absolutely earn their salvation.
I get that there is a since of empowerment that might exist as a result of feeling like you can control your own destiny.  It is why so many are willing to die for their faith.  They believe it is the only guarantee that heaven can be theirs.  If they die for Jihad then that go to heaven.  They take control of their own path.  It is not a matter of destroying Christians for many of them.  It is about going on to heaven; the very thing you and I strive so hard to obtain.  Their path to heaven obviously isn’t the same as ours, but it is still the pathway that they have been taught from their youth, just as Jesus has been taught as our pathway to heaven. 
I say this so that we can be mindful of the world we create when we eliminate the act of forgiveness from our salvation.  Now, you might think that it odd to say that a Christian would do that.  But, how many of you thought my statement above was out of place?  In the previous paragraph I wrote, “It is about going on to heaven; the very thing you and I strive so hard to obtain.”  If going to heaven is about God’s forgiveness then why are we striving so hard to obtain it?  I mean, I strived hard to obtain 13.1 miles at the Dam to Dam.  I trained, I prepared, and I ran in that intense heat.  I strived hard to get my degree from Florida College (and some of you strived even harder in higher education).  Getting a degree is a merit based system.  Finishing a half-marathon (or any race for that matter) is a merit based system.  Either you did the work to earn the reward or you didn’t.  But, heaven is repeatedly stated as something I do not earn.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23).”  We earn death. All the toil, all the work which we engage in earns us death.  Salvation is never something I can earn.  Forgiveness as something given, not earned.  Let this truth permeate your soul the next time you are wronged and see how it changes your world for the good.~WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
 
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Forgiveness

The Light
Volume 8 Issue 24