We are commanded by our forgiving God to ourselves forgive. We, who walk in the grace of Jesus, have experienced undeserved forgiveness not because we asked for it, but because it is the nature of God.
We are shown the ultimate example of how we should strive to live in the life of Jesus. He forgave those who beat and murdered him, as they beat and murdered him. There was no consternation, no debate, he just did it. He did it immediately because that is the nature of God and that is the model we should all strive for.
Last Saturday the tragic news of the passing of Matthew Warren, son of Rick and Kay Warren, shocked me into immediate grief. I couldn’t stand to hear that a family, any family, could be baring that pain. Matthew took his own life after a lifelong battle with mental illness. I mentioned it to my wife and she too was shocked.
Suicide is an ugly thing filled with pain for both the victims and those who love them. Knowing that people that I respect so much, Pastor Rick and his family, were personally dealing with such a tragedy hurt my heart. It still does.
What do forgiveness and suicide have to do with one another? Well, Pastor Rick reinforced my respect for him and earned a great deal more, when he Tweeted this in the days following his loss:
@RickWarren: Someone on the internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun.I pray he seeks God’s forgiveness. I forgive him. #MATTHEW 6:15
I suspect, from listening to his sermons, following his Tweets, and reading his books, that Pastor Rick had just received the news on the source of the gun when he sent this message of forgiveness out. I would be willing to bet that there was very little debate on whether or not to offer forgiveness to the person who enabled Matthew to take his own life. It was just in Rick’s nature to do so.
It is a life submitted to Jesus, following Jesus’ example that enables Rick to forgive so quickly. That is not a natural response, it is a Jesus response. Pastor Rick is modeling what Christian forgiveness should look like. His congregation, and a watching world, are blessed to see it take place on such a public scale.
I know that the Warren family has a very difficult time ahead. I cannot imagine their pain. My family will keep them in prayer and beg our Holy God to offer them comfort during their grief.
I am thankful that even in the midst of such pain, a life transformed by Jesus continues to reflect such grace. Pastor Rick reflects to the world what Jesus was, and is, all about.