One of our patients is a former con-man. Over 3 decades he cheated business partners and friends. In the Old West he would have been called a swindler. If you ask him, he was a successful con-man, and the most miserable person in the world.
That was his situation until the Creator reached down into his heart and brought about significant spiritual transformation. His whole life changed. He knew himself as a forgiven and very-loved human being. He was no longer melancholy or callous. He was a new creation . . . the old had gone away and the new had come. Isn’t that amazing?
The way he talked, what he thought about, what he did in his spare time, and how he made a living all changed as well. He made it his mission to track down each person he violated and repay what he had stolen. On one occasion, when an old and wronged acquaintance met this modern-day Zaccheus at the door of his house, our patient found himself looking down the barrel of a gun. To his surprise, the pistol-toting former friend heard our patient talk about his mission to seek forgiveness from everyone he had wronged and pay them back to the extent he was able. After 10 minutes, the man softened and the two former friends reconciled. How wonderful.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Kenya these past two years. We’ve made friends and ministry partners. The Kenyan prison projects are progressing and lives are being touched. Hopefully, there will be many Kenyan inmates who will be touched and changed just like our Fort Worth patient was.
I’m reading “King Leopold’s Ghost,” a history of the Belgian king’s late 19th century takeover of much of Central Africa. Having been in East Africa and knowing a bit of African history, the book is quite an interesting read for me. The writer brings up some fascinating questions:
- Was colonialism good or bad for Africa?
- Did the Europeans treat the Africans with fairness?
- Did the colonialists view the Africans as lesser humans?
- Would the Europeans have enslaved the Africans if Africans hadn’t been practicing slavery already?
There are some letters from the African King of the Kongo (back then the Congo was spelled with a K), literally King Kong. He became a Christian, educated, and quite a talented writer. He crafted written appeals to the Begian King and to the Pope that they would cease enslaving his people. His letters and the few interviews of other Africans give us a view into what they thought about the Belgians. Hint: they viewed the whites as savages. I wish the colonialists had brought the real Jesus and left their swindling and money idolatry behind.
Ah, but it is easy to be judgmental. The African fervor was high back then. The rest of the world knew very little about the sub-Sahara continent, and we might have been swept along as well. . . just like Christians in the 1960′s were antagonistic toward civil rights, and how 1970 liberal protestants were pro-choice.
We can learn some lessons from our patient, from Zaccheus, and from the Africans. Although it is difficult and gut-wrenching, we must forgive when others wrong us, and seek peace when we have been the perpetrators of injustice. If you are like me and you have been on both ends of it, you cringe when you have to ask for forgiveness, and you stiffen when you are asked to forgive.
So may you, reader, be embolden to overcome the cringing and stiffening when your Creator asks something very difficult of you. Think of our patient, at the end of his life, making right what he had made wrong.