Thoughts on Invictus: Part 5

Forgiveness is something we all talk about as being foundational to Christianity. (Love is foundational to forgiveness.) The first Bible verse that many of us learned, John 3:16, states: “For God (the Father) so loved the world, he gave his only-begotten Son (i.e. His unique and eternal son with whom He was in face to face relationship for all ante-mundane eternity) so that everyone who believes in him will not perish (or be lost) but have eternal life (participation in the very life of the Trinity).”  Love is foundational to forgiveness; forgiveness is vitally wound up in justification by faith alone.  To vastly oversimplify it, we are declared “not guilty” by God because of the sacrifice of Christ—we stand forgiven, totally, forever and unconditionally!

If we are honest, we must admit that while we cling to the fact that we are forgiven, we are ourselves not good at forgiving others.  Oh, we don’t have much trouble brushing off minor offenses but those who have betrayed us and inflicted damage?  Here we do not want to forgive; we want justice, or better yet, revenge.  Yet refusing to forgive, however imperfectly, keeps our souls from healing and perpetuates hatred and violence.

During the past several years I have been confronted with injustice and oppression in an up-close and personal fashion as I have ministered in Bulgaria.  We as Americans think of racial oppression in terms of the Black-White divide in American culture (or maybe the apartheid of South Africa).  I have witnessed the oppression of the Roma people (gypsies) in a manner reminiscent of the ghettos in which the Jews were for centuries placed in Europe.  Jewish ghettos in Europe were not an invention of the Nazis; rather they were instituted centuries ago during the Renaissance by Christian political authorities who marginalized Jews because of their non-Christian beliefs.  The Gypsy people too are historically non-Christian who migrated westward from the Indian sub-continent about a thousand years ago.  As a people group they settled mainly in Eastern and Central Europe and remain unassimilated to this day.  The song “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” popularized by Cher in the early 70’s reflects the majority population attitude toward them to this day. 

In Bulgaria, under Communism, the government erected walls around gypsy communities to further separate them from the larger population. The Roma people in Bulgaria are largely illiterate to this day, and it has only been in the past couple of decades or so that the gospel has begun to penetrate these closed communities. Bulgaria specifically and eastern and central Europe generally stand in need of racial, cultural, and economic reconciliation and justice. 

The problem runs deep in that culture, and in a sense, in every culture. Fortunately I have seen a few glimmers of hope in Bulgaria, largely through the ministries of Care For All.

Coming Up: In my next post I’ll share about an exciting pioneer in the establishment of justice in rural America.

January 27, 2010. Tags: , . Food For Thought.

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