Last month I visited Nepal to meet with and interview persecuted Christians. One of the brothers we met was a young pastor who'd been attacked by radicals just months before our visit. He was beaten up for trying to perform a Christian funeral and burial for a member of his church who'd died. I want to share a portion of our conversation, where he talked about the challenge of forgiving those who had attacked him:
Todd: Have you forgiven the people who beat you?
"Brother S": Yes, I forgive them.
S: It is very difficult to forgive anybody that I am knowing and receive forgiveness from people. When I was praying and I understood, when reading Bible I understood that I have to forgive because the Lord says if you don't forgive others you will not be forgiven. So at that time the words were pricking my heart. Because…I have also done some other wrong things, some mistakes, so the Lord is working so I have to forgive. The compulsion was coming from [my] heart and I said okay Lord – the Lord was speaking to me: "Forgive them. [Those who attacked you] have to come to the Lord – they have to come to Me." The Lord was speaking to me. Then I said yes, they have to come – I have to work with them so they will come to Christ. I said okay – I forgive.
T: How long after the attack was that when you were able to forgive them?
S: For one week, I couldn't sleep. But after one month I could forgive.
T: So for one week afterwards you couldn't sleep. Then after one month you were really able to forgive from your heart?
One of the amazing things I find as I meet with persecuted Christians is their ability to forgive those who attack and persecute them. And beyond even forgiveness, they show love and pray for God's blessings on them.
In Brother S's case, this was a month-long process involving much prayer and wrestling with God before he came to the point of forgiving. I remember meeting the widow of a martyred Christian who said she never felt anger or hatred for the men who killed her husband; forgiveness came to her as a gift from God almost instantaneously.
Most American Christians don't deal with persecution first-hand. We are not attacked for our faith, beaten for our beliefs or forced to bury martyred family members.
But all of us are called to forgive. All of us must ask God to help us work through the pain and frustration of being wronged and come to the point of forgiving. Next time you face that challenge, I hope you'll remember Brother S and be encouraged by his example.
Todd Nettleton is the Director of Media Development for The Voice of the Martyrs. More stories of persecuted Nepali Christians will be featured in VOM's February, 2013 newsletter. If you are a U.S. resident, you can click here subscribe to the newsletter.