I had something happen today that is way past just strange. A father whose family I investigated, and found that he was molesting his children and abusing his wife, walked up to me and said that he would never again be with his family because of it. He said his wife is divorcing him and she is soon to regain custody of the children, in large part because she has excluded him from her life. He was not belligerent or threatening, just filled with hate, I suppose, and wanted me to know how I had ruined his life. This is the very sort of man that is the only sort for which I find nothing in myself but enmity. I so wanted to offer to escort him outside for a "tune up". As these thoughts raced through my mind, I was locked in to his eyes. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to give him back some taste of the pain he has put into the world. Then I saw it. Not fear. Genuine anguish, he was anguished over the consequences of his actions. Suddenly, my straining to not act out in violent retribution, had turned into a teachable moment. I had him at an instant of time wherein he was vulnerable. I told him the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus saying to her, "Go thy way and sin no more." I pointed out that Jesus didn't say to her to right all her wrongs. He said "Sin no more." I told him that his first priority is to resolve never to touch another child, another woman, never to put a hand ever again to anyone to use them without regard for them first and foremost. Then to execute that resolve, every day with every one. Only that is repentance. I told him that in repentance is forgiveness. If he repents of his sin, he is forgiven, even by himself. I told him that whether he is a Christian or not, the principle is the same. Take it out of religion and it is just the idea that to be truly sorry, is not simply to wish it didn't happen, because you can't change the past. To be truly sorry is to make sure it never happens again. If you make sure it never happens again, one day you will realize you are not the same man that did those horrible things, you have made yourself over into someone else. Someone, not any longer guilty, but rather someone forgiven his past. Maybe not by your ex-wife or your children, but forgiven none the less.
For those who feel they are at some level acquainted with me through this website, and wonder why my response to prayer requests are usually very slight, I offer the following explanation of my personal feelings. I read a book, decades ago now, "This Way For the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen" written by a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp. He was not a Jew, but he served in a workgang with two learned Polish Rabbis. For many months he heard their endless theological discussion and their many prayers regarding the Nazi's "Final Solution" of the "Jewish question". Then one day, both of them went up the chimney at the Crematorium. I do not recommend the book to anyone not prepared to have their beliefs changed. I assure you, it will change your thinking. I was required to read it as part of my University class regarding the problem of evil and suffering. So, what do I now believe about prayer? I believe it is at worst harmless. I believe it brings many a great deal of comfort. I believe God hears them all, Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, He hears them all. If he regards them differently one from another depending on the conception of the praying person, I'll have to ask that some later time, because I see no present reason to think so. Don't get me wrong, Osama praying for destruction and mayhem, is different than my praying that Osama learn tolerance and forgiveness, but that Osama calls out to Allah, while I call to Yahweh is not a matter of any real import. What is important here though, is that just as surely as I am free to hope, even work for Osama to come to some less violent outlook. Just as sure as that, is Osama's freedom to burn down thousands of people in a senseless act of mindless violence. God will not stop Osama from his evil intent. He did not stop Adolph Hitler. He did not stop Pol Pot. He did not stop Joseph Stalin. He will not intervene. We are God's instruments on this Earth. Not some mystical hand...US! We are charged to be Christ in every way, to every one, all the time. Impossible to fulfill. but look to the ends of your arms and you will see the Hand of God. If He is to have a hand, you will have to lend it. I have heard the testimony of an eyewitness who watched while two of God's most devoted servants, were cruelly worked nigh unto death, then reduced to ashes. Their prayers did not fall on deaf ears, but for God to stop the Holocaust would have meant to deny an unspeakable evil be permitted to the Nazis. It is you and I and what we DO. By all means pray for the betterment of your fellows and circumstances, but hope for nothing if you will not seek to work out the realization of your prayer.
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