On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — an act of mercy and justice. The freedom granted in the Emancipation Proclamation would only come to the slaves if the Union won the war. Today a war in our hearts still divides our country. President Lincoln reflected, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” To emancipate our hearts enslaved by hatred, bitterness and prejudice, freedom will only come when Americans of all stripes and colors challenge ourselves to change, to forgive the past that can’t be changed, and to commit to work together today to change what can be changed for the future.
It’s been 151 years since Lincoln took actions to heal a nation divided. How many more years will it take for healing to finally take place in our country? Who wants to be a part of the healing in our country? Where are the leaders who have the moral fortitude to stand and to lead from a heart that values forgiveness — the spiritual and emotional equilibrium that balances mercy and justice?
President Clinton — one man with a certain expertise in seeking private and public forgiveness from his family, the nation and his enemies — stated on the 35th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech: “The anger, the resentment, the bitterness, the desire for recrimination against people you believe have wronged you, they harden the heart and deaden the spirit and lead to self-inflicted wounds. And so, it is important that we are able to forgive those we believe have wronged us even as we ask for forgiveness from people we have wronged. And I heard that first — first in the civil rights movement. Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Many of our neighbors endure enormous pain, adversity, human rights abuses, and oppression. Dare we make friends with our enemies and trust El Nathan N’Qamah, the God Who Avenges Me, to push through barricades and deliver our minds and hearts from oppressors to a place of spiritual triumph and personal liberation? (Psalm 18:47)
El Yeshuw’ah walked toward Jerusalem, toward the cross, toward deadly pain to secure our freedom from the slavery of anger, bitterness and despair. My son died for every American’s freedom to do “what is right in his own eyes.” Knowing the risks, Kristoffer raced toward challenging, dangerous situations. What are we willing to sacrifice to move forward?
What can we extract from the untimely, shocking deaths of three dearly loved sons — Kristoffer, Trayvon and Michael — to move through tragedy to gain freedom? How will those of us left behind spend the rest of our lives? Building monuments to hate, devastating events or what someone did, chaining us as hostages to the past? Or building memorials to remember and declare what El Chay, the Living God Who Gives Me Life, has done, is doing, and will do in the midst of confusion and brokenness?
Ravi Zacharias wrote in his book, The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives, “At the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes. Your heart will become coarse and desensitized, be crushed under the weight of disappointment, or be tender by that which makes the heart of God tender as well. God’s heart is a caring heart.”
No parent wants their child’s premature death to be in vain. I have a dream. What if a redemptive Nelson-Mandala-turning-point arose from the ashes of Trayvon and Michael’s deaths?
In Bill Clinton’s book, My Life, Clinton asked Nelson Mandela, “I know you did a great thing in inviting your jailers to your inauguration, but didn’t you really hate those who imprisoned you?”
“Of course I did, for many years. They took the best years of my life. They abused me physically and mentally. I didn’t get to see my children grow up. I hated them. Then one day when I was working in the quarry, hammering the rocks, I realized that they had already taken everything from me except my mind and my heart. Those they could not take without my permission. I decided not to give them away.” Then Nelson Mandela looked at Bill Clinton, smiled and said, ‘And neither should you.’”
Clinton: “When you were walking out of prison for the last time, didn’t you feel the hatred rise up in you again?”
“Yes,” Mandela replied. “For a moment I did. Then I thought to myself. ‘They have had me for twenty-seven years. If I keep hating them, they will still have me.’ I wanted to be free, and so I let it go.”
Who or what “has” you?
Calling a Nelson Mandela, “Where are you?”