George M. Nutwell III and Ivan Corea come from different perspectives from within the Church. However, they are at one with the view that Jesus was a Compassionate Leader who healed out of compassion and readily forgave others. They examine the healing power of compassion and forgiveness, from Christ’s perspective:
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
George M. Nutwell III
Like many others, I had always understood forgiveness to be a good thing, albeit difficult to do in many cases. I had always heard it would bring peace to the forgiver and that makes sense since a grudge is heavy on the heart. But is that it? Is that all Jesus meant by forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer? When I retired from the Foreign Service and decided to enter the prison ministry, I found that forgiveness and loving one’s enemies was a core issue facing many of the people locked up. Most of them have much to forgive. They also want to be forgiven and would like to be able to forgive themselves. I needed to uplift these men so where to begin?
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, the first great story of forgiveness appears. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and then spent time in prison, forgave his brothers. He said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20, NLT) Joseph saw the situation from a divine perspective. His brothers had been ignorant, and God had a higher plan. This event previewed Jesus’ crucifixion.
While on the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24, NLT) Jesus was asking for the forgiveness of his persecutors on the grounds that they were ignorant and did not understand the higher plan. They were ignorant of God who St. John said is “love.” St. John explained further that “anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8, NLT) Is that not the reason for all evil-doing, an ignorance or lack of understanding of love.
Many of the men in prison have been abused and abandoned. They have no concept of unconditional or, as St. John called it, perfect love. For one who does not know love, how is he to be taught love? One will never learn through fear or punishment. They will also not learn through words alone. They can only learn through the act or example of love. Forgiveness is that act. That is why Jesus taught his followers to love one’s enemies. This included praying for them. He added that this is how God loves His children and in that act of divine love, perfection is revealed. “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NIV) Forgiveness is the teacher that reveals perfection just like a piano teacher reveals it in a student.
The result of Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross was the conversion of the Roman Centurion, his own resurrection, and the saving example for all mankind. Earlier, in his ministry, people were healed of disease and sin after Jesus forgave them. I finally got it. There is spiritual power in forgiveness. All divine laws are backed by divine authority and power. When they are obeyed, “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)
As I began to share this spiritual law in my prison ministry, I witnessed individual resurrections. I saw people transformed by their forgiveness, and prayer, for those who had harmed them in the past. One example stands out above others. A man who had been in and out of prison over the years was suffering from physical and relationship issues. He did not ask for healing of those things. He asked to be healed of his feelings of hatred, anger and the desire for revenge against the many people who had hurt or betrayed him throughout his life. He had been kicked out of the house at thirteen and grew up on the streets using and selling drugs. He had been betrayed by family, even recently. He said, he could not sleep at night because all he could do is think about revenge. He asked, how can I overcome this problem? My answer – the spiritual law of forgiveness, taught and exemplified by Christ Jesus. I pointed him to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-48, where Jesus commands us to love and pray for our enemies. I suggested that he make a list of people who had hurt him over the years and begin praying for them daily. Such a prayer might include him forgiving them as Jesus did on the cross.
It might also include praying for them to know God and feel His Grace. He began this daily prayer activity. For the first week, he later said, he did not feel sincere, but he did it out of respect for me. When the next week came, he started to feel something in his heart. It was turning warm with love. By the end of that week his life began to change. He started to sleep well, and a reoccurring pain began to disappear. He began to receive letters from the outside after having not received any for eighteen months. He also got a visit from family and an old friend. He felt like he was going through a re-birth of some kind. He felt more humility and gratitude than ever before. Soon after, he went through a physical exam where he found out that a disease had disappeared that has been with him for years. He was feeling the divine power of love in his life as never before. He has since continued to grow spiritually and has shared his testimony with many in prison, spreading his light. It is quite possible that his transformation will lead to an earlier release in the future.
I have witnessed this same spiritual power in my own life and in the lives of family and friends. To forgive is to teach love. It shines the light that Jesus said is in all of us. Just imagine the results of obeying this spiritual law in your own life. What do you have to lose?
THE COMPASSIONATE JESUS
These words are two of the most powerful words in the New Testament. John Chapter 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible but these two words really give us an insight into His heart of compassion. There are those who think that compassion might be a weakness, a ‘soft skill.’ Not so. I want to put it to you that compassion is a powerful tool, in the hands of a leader. I do believe it is a leadership strength.
Jesus, in his time, saw the suffering in front of him. His friends – Mary and Martha who were sisters from Bethany, had sent word to Jesus that their sibling, Lazarus was ill. They were the three closest friends of Jesus. The sisters report goes like this: ‘Lazarus, the one you love is sick.’ Lazarus was dying. He was seriously ill. My mind goes back to a morning when I received a telephone call from my niece Rebecca in New Malden, in Surrey, in the United Kingdom.
My niece was crying on the phone, she told me my father was dying. She had called an ambulance and wanted me to come immediately. There was a problem, I lived two hours away from them and it meant a journey on the tube, on the underground, across London, from the other side of town. (It took me two hours to try to reach the side of my father, on the other hand, Jesus was across the river Jordan, about twenty miles from where Mary and Martha lived, it would have taken him at least a good day’s walk to reach their home). I sensed the urgency in the voice of my niece, she wanted me to come ‘right now.’ It would have been the same with Mary and Martha. I just dropped everything, dashed out of our home and took the tube. Fighting back the tears in a packed tube, I kept praying and recollected the times with my precious father, childhood in Sri Lanka, moments in India, new adventures in Great Britain, a wonderful visit to Washington D.C.
A smile broke out on my face when I remembered the time we visited Lucknow Zoo in India. I was standing behind my father and was flabbergasted to see a pickpocket before my eyes, trying to steal my father’s wallet. I lifted the pickpocket by the scruff of his neck, my father just said let him go and forgave him! That was a salutary lesson in forgiveness! Back in 1970s London, I went to see a rock group at the Roundhouse Theatre. My father travelled across London in his light blue Volkswagen ,to give me a ride back home to Upper Norwood. I don’t know how he found me that night, but he did. That was my father. He was concerned for my safety. He thought I had gone to see a play! I loved my father, unconditionally, and I ran to be by his side. Sadly, by the time I reached my beloved father, he had passed away. Dad had ‘gone home.’ As I stood by his bedside touching his lifeless form, I was able to thank God for his life and I committed my earthly father’s spirit into my Heavenly Father’s loving hands. I was reminded of Larry Norman’s lyrics:
‘And now you’ve gone, so far away
I hope I’ll see you again someday
But if I don’t, I hope I’ll see you in heaven.’
So, in the instance of his close friend Lazarus, what did Jesus do? He waited for two more days before rushing to his side. He intentionally delayed his trip. When He heard that Lazarus was dying, Jesus said: ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son will be glorified through it.’ (John Chapter 11) Jesus knew what was going to happen. He went on to say, ‘our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ Jesus waited because He wanted Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples and the people around him to experience something so profound. It was a huge step of faith they would have to take, to place their total trust in Him. Jesus had such compassion – he wanted them to see his power over death, it was a picture into the future when He himself would be raised from the dead on the third day. This was miraculous healing, He had the power to raise the dead.
Jesus saw people suffering. Their heartbreak was His heartbreak. He had genuine compassion for others. Jesus just had to touch them, and they were healed. The woman with a hemorrhage touched the hem of His garment and was healed. (Mathew Chapter 19: 18-26) Jesus had compassion equal to His power. His compassion was such that he dared to do what no other person in his day would have done – He touched and healed a leper. During that era, lepers lived in colonies, set apart from the rest of the local community. They were reduced to begging and had to shout ‘unclean, unclean,’ to warn others when they were travelling – people would avoid them. Some threw stones at them. They suffered banishment from their friends and families. People would not dare go anywhere near a leper.
I was a teenager travelling with my family across India. We were travelling to New Delhi. As soon as we came out of the railway station, I saw a leper who was begging in the heat and dust, right outside the crowded railway station. This was the first time I had ever come across a leper. Although I gave him some money, I did not touch him. Lepers were treated as ‘untouchables.’ What did Jesus do? He touched and healed them, out of compassion for them. He restored them to communion again. The leper said: ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ What was His response? In Mathew Chapter 8 verse 3: ‘Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.’ He said, ‘I am willing.’ He turns to the leper and says, ‘Be clean,’ and he was immediately cleansed of his leprosy. Jesus moved by compassion, healed others. ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed them.’ (Mathew 14:14)
When I was growing up on the island of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, I drank some contaminated water and developed typhoid fever. One night I had 105 F fever and was dying. My stomach was on fire. I was rolling on the bed in pain. My younger brother slept on a mat by my bedside, holding my hand in the night. It was at that point of severe, excruciating pain that I cried out to Jesus and said, ‘please heal me.’ At the time I wasn’t a practicing Christian.
My family were church going people, but I hadn’t made a conscious decision to accept Jesus as my Savior. But He heard my cry. I started getting better. It was a gradual process. I spent six months in bed, I weighed about 98 lbs. It was an absolute miracle and I am alive to tell the tale. Healing is real. I have experienced the Compassionate Jesus. His compassion, his love, his healing, is available to you. He said: ‘according to your faith, so be it unto you.’ He bore our sicknesses, so we don’t have to. By His stripes we are healed. ‘I am willing,’ said Jesus to the leper. ‘Be clean.’