Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Incredible Spiritual Power of Apology

A sitting Republican president launched a sweeping program of socialism. His Democrat successor, not to be outdone, is pushing for even more. All of these efforts to "fix" the American economy have driven the stock market down in a free-fall, with a precipitous drop coming upon the news that "help" was on the way from the U.S. Senate. I'm not sure how much more help we can stand!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some GOOD news. And among some of the most encouraging and inspirational news of the past fortnight, in my opinion, has been the apology received from and forgiveness given to former Klansman Elwin Wilson by the man whom he beat during the Civil Rights Movement, now-Congressman John Lewis.

It's a story that shows the power of the gospel (I hope). Wilson reportedly took this action upon the realization that he was bound for Hell. Being advanced in years has apparently helped Wilson to start thinking about his eternal destiny. Published reports give very little more in the way of details. I hope that Wilson is not under the (false) impression that his reconciliation with Lewis will change his eternal destiny. What Wilson needs to realize—what every person needs to understand—is that he sinned against God by rejecting the personhood of a human being made in the image of God. He therefore needs to ask for God's forgiveness and salvation for Wilson's rebellion against God. I'm hopeful that this is precisely the message the Wilson received, that he did seek God's forgiveness and find his salvation, and that he went to Lewis in contrition because his heart has been changed.

If this is indeed the case, then it just goes to show the power of the gospel to transform the lives and hearts of those whom society has written off as beyond hope of redemption. It also reminds us of the continuing importance of the doctrine of Hell to evangelism.

It's a story that reminds us of the importance of seeking and giving forgiveness. This is the key to so many problems plaguing our world today. An amazing number of families could be saved merely by the practice of asking for forgiveness when we're wrong and granting forgiveness when we're asked. Imagine how inner cities would be transformed if this were the ethic of urban gangs. I believe that this simple principle is also the great hope for racial reconciliation in our country, and that now is a great opportunity to exercise it. Here's hoping that Wilson starts a trend of white apologies toward victimized blacks. And then, I hope that black Americans, if they have falsely accused any white Americans of racism, will also begin to seek the forgiveness of those whom they have wronged.

It is not a panacea, for substantive differences separate Republicans and Democrats, pro-life people and pro-abortion people, opponents of the family (feminists, homosexual activists, etc.) and defenders of the family, as well as conservatives and liberals in many areas beyond secular politics. Nevertheless, there is incredible power in an apology, and for those who know Christ as Savior, an incredible spiritual power in the discipline of seeking and granting forgiveness that honors our Lord greatly.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a great story and a great lesson.

I cannot imagine how burdened this man's soul must have been all these years - his entire life. I am happy for him that he had the opportunity to apologize, and I am happy that the Congressman got to hear the apology and forgive him.

Louis

CB Scott said...

Most Excellent.

Grace is sufficient to change the souls of all who call upon the name of Jesus.

Thank you Bart for sharing this with us all.

cb

Bart Barber said...

Louis,

Isn't it great!?

What's more, I'm betting that John Lewis has long since moved on, while Elwin Wilson has suffered with the burden of his guilt. Our God of Justice has created the vast majority of us with such a temperament that the offender winds up being injured more in the long run than does the victim!

Bart Barber said...

C.B.,

I almost missed yours (it showed up while I was replying to Louis).

The great thing about you, IMHO, is the way that you combine robust conservatism and an unflinching defense of the gospel with such a compassion for "the least of these" (e.g., your advocacy for children) and an absolute absence of racism.

You should spend less time with President Carter ;-), but beyond that, you represent the rare and wonderful combination of someone who has relinquished so much of the ugly side of previous incarnations of Southern Christianity without abandoning the good.

Thanks for an affirming comment.

volfan007 said...

Bart,

Thanks for sharing this. Powerful and good.

David

Tom Parker said...

Wonder what would happen if in SBC circles we we were willing to ask for and receive forgiveness?

What if we were to seek to work together for the Glory of God instead of focusing on differences that drive us apart!

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

A great question. Good things, I'm sure.

CB Scott said...

Tom and all,

Sometimes it is just good to enjoy the wonder of God's glorious grace without thoughts or questions about anything else; would you not all agree?

It is my opinion this may be one of those moments we could all just do that. I am sure we will have propositions abounding to debate later.

So let's just take this good thing for what it is.

cb

Big Daddy Weave said...

Thanks for sharing.

I agree that racial reconciliation often must begin with an apology. However, our attempt at reconciliation must not end with that apology. As The Congressman taught me during my time with him, to have true community we must develop right relationships with folks who don't look like us.

Sometimes that's a tough task. But we must try.

CB Scott said...

B.Diddy,

Have you had an opportunity to talk to congressman Lewis about this matter. If so, can you share any more than we have already heard without breaking a confidence?

cb

kydo97 said...

Ok, Bart, what do you think about people who apologize about things their ancestors did to someone else's ancestors? I can't help it that my ancestors may or may not have sinned or transgressed against another's ancestors. At what point must one start being accountable for their own actions, their own situations, and not blame what happened generations ago for their current situation?

bapticus hereticus said...

I agree with CB that grace is a wonderful thing. But such does not appear to be evident in the following words:

... substantive differences separate … pro-life people and pro-abortion people, opponents of the family (feminists, homosexual activists, etc.) and defenders of the family ....

Pro-choice accurately defines the position, whereas pro-abortion is evaluative. Feminists and homosexual activists also value family, even if such is not as the author would define it. But should we allow the author's apparent definition, shall we, then, add "... and defenders of the family (adulterers, pedophiles, etc.)." No, let's not; let's re-write the entire sentence, instead.

Bart Barber said...

kydo97,

Although the Bible does describe people doing something sort of like apologizing on behalf of their ancestors (but only in conjunction with apologizing for their own participation in the same actions. . . see Nehemiah 9, for example), the Bible telling us that people did something is not always the same as the Bible telling us that we should do something.

How to relate to our ancestors or predecessors in their faults? Now that's a tough question and one with which I've struggled (getting a degree in history will do that). I think that it is unhealthy to cut oneself off from those folks. There are good things to learn from our predecessors. I also think that it is unhealthy to embody and preserve for posterity their faults and weaknesses.

It is a better thing, and a biblical one I think, to try to honor them for what they got right, set aside what they did wrong, and try to leave a Christlike example for those who come behind US.

The SBC did what it did several years ago, I am convinced, out of a desire to show that we're really different these days when it comes to race relations. That's difficult to accomplish for several reasons:

1. Because we're not ENTIRELY different. We're MOSTLY different, but there's the occasional lingering racist within the SBC. Of course, the same could be said of many institutions entirely embraced by blacks (Hello. . . Democrat Senator Robert Byrd), but that may even be part of the problem. I'm sure that many Americans (including many black Americans) are savvy enough to see that even some of the people who are the loudest public champions of racial reconciliation are hypocrites. It is perhaps a natural (even if inaccurate) conclusion to suspect that the ratio of hypocrites gets worse in less vocal demographic pockets.

2. Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. There are people in our convention who are overly sensitive to PR (and yes, some who are underly sensitive to it!). And rotten PR in the area of race relations is part of the consequences of our institutional sin regarding blacks. The PR-savvy among us are convinced, I'm sure, that we must far overcorrect if we would ever be able to throw off this horrible first impression made upon so many people alive today.

Better than a made-for-television apology, I think that the national convention should just remain silent on the issue. The solution is for white SBC churches to go out of their way to invite conservative black Baptist churches in their area to affiliate with the SBC. They can dually affiliate—they don't have to leave their historic affiliations behind.

Fill the SBC with a large constituency of black churches, and both the nature and the reputation of the convention will change the right way…the Baptist way…from the churches up.

Bart Barber said...

Bapticus Hereticus.

"Pro-choice" does not accurately describe the position. I'm in favor of a woman having every choice available to her one hour before her baby is born that President Obama is in favor of her having one hour after her baby is born.

Thus, we are all in favor of women having choices, and we are all in favor of those choices being limited by law. The question is how to justify what is murder at 3:00 being a constitutional right at 1:00? And there's no reasonable answer to that question.

But to address your overall point, I'm simply not so politically correct that, while speaking of "substantive differences," I try to shape my language so as to give the appearance that there are no substantive differences.

Bart Barber said...

Wally,

Great story. Totally unrelated to this post. That makes it, technically, comment spam. And therefore I have deleted it. My suggestions to you? Here are two options off the top of my head:

1. I did post something a couple of weeks ago about the 100-0 girls basketball game. Your comment would be more relevant on that older post. Feel free to look it up and put it there.

2. Start your own blog.

Have a great day!

bapticus hereticus said...

Bart: "Pro-choice" does not accurately describe the position. I'm in favor of a woman having every choice available to her one hour before her baby is born that President Obama is in favor of her having one hour after her baby is born.

bapticus hereticus: That one has an abortion does not make one pro-abortion, which would be, I think you would agree, quite troubling for those pro-life individuals that have an abortion. If you are going to use the proper terms (e.g., "pro-life"), then it behooves you to state "pro-choice" not "pro-abortion."

Bart: Thus, we are all in favor of women having choices, and we are all in favor of those choices being limited by law. The question is how to justify what is murder at 3:00 being a constitutional right at 1:00? And there's no reasonable answer to that question.

bapticus hereticus: If one accepts the supposition of murder, and such is controversial, even among Christians.

Bart: But to address your overall point, I'm simply not so politically correct that, while speaking of "substantive differences," I try to shape my language so as to give the appearance that there are no substantive differences.

bapticus hereticus: I agree, there are differences of perception and substantive differences do exist, as do substantive commonalities. The thought did not call for the negative treatment of feminists or homosexual activists, nor the misnaming of the pro-choice position.

volfan007 said...

baptist hereticus,

Are your initials BC? or, PL?

David

Bart Barber said...

Here are the logical flaws in your argument, BH.

1. You say: "That one has an abortion does not make one pro-abortion"

Yet, the group in view is not the set of all people who have HAD an abortion. Rather, it is the set of all people who ADVOCATE the legality, availability, even subsidy of abortion. These are those who are pro-abortion. And this poses no problem at all for your hypothetical pro-life person who has had an abortion.



2. You say: "If you are going to use the proper terms (e.g., 'pro-life'), then it behooves you to state 'pro-choice' not 'pro-abortion.'"

The propriety of a term, in my way of thinking, derives not from its popularity or reception by a reader, but from its accuracy. I believe that "pro-abortion" is a more accurate term than "pro-choice."


3. You say: "If one accepts the supposition of murder, and such is controversial, even among Christians."

My only use of the word "murder" was in reference to the deliberate termination of the life of a baby one hour AFTER it is born. This is controversial? I didn't know it, but I'm not that surprised.

What I had requested was simply this: A baby is born at 2:00. To end its life forcibly at 3:00 is murder. To end its life forcibly at 1:00 is a constitutionally protected right.

Now, what is the rationale behind that enormous distinction? Is it based in any convincing attribute of reality? Not that I know of.


3. You said: "The thought did not call for the negative treatment of feminists or homosexual activists, nor the misnaming of the pro-choice position."

"Negative treatment" is really not a strong enough word. My objective is the utter defeat of their positions—indeed, the obliteration of their point of view from the human marketplace of ideas. The black flag, sir; the black flag.

bapticus hereticus said...

Bart: Here are the logical flaws in your argument, BH. 1. You say: "That one has an abortion does not make one pro-abortion" Yet, the group in view is not the set of all people who have HAD an abortion. Rather, it is the set of all people who ADVOCATE the legality, availability, even subsidy of abortion. These are those who are pro-abortion. And this poses no problem at all for your hypothetical pro-life person who has had an abortion.

bapticus hereticus: Does the pro-life individual that has an abortion, then, become a pro-abortion individual? It does not follow that if the set of individuals incurs more abortions that it must be they are more in favor of abortion than the pro-life individuals. I do not favor abortion, but I recognize conditions may reasonably justify such, but my perspective on abortion is secondary to the decision discretion of the autonomous being that has a right to determine the functioning of her body. We don't have to agree on this for my point to be valid that pro-choice is the proper term instead of pro-abortion.

Bart: 2. You say: "If you are going to use the proper terms (e.g., 'pro-life'), then it behooves you to state 'pro-choice' not 'pro-abortion.'" The propriety of a term, in my way of thinking, derives not from its popularity or reception by a reader, but from its accuracy. I believe that "pro-abortion" is a more accurate term than "pro-choice."

bapticus hereticus: Again, Bart, that one chooses abortion does not mean one prefers abortion, nor that a "pro-lifer" that has an abortion then become a "pro-abortioner." It is obvious, or at least to me that your use of the term "pro-abortion" is not meant to describe a position; it is used to evaluate one.

Bart: 3. You say: "If one accepts the supposition of murder, and such is controversial, even among Christians." My only use of the word "murder" was in reference to the deliberate termination of the life of a baby one hour AFTER it is born. This is controversial? I didn't know it, but I'm not that surprised.

bapticus hereticus: An hour after birth? I guess I will need to read what is being referred to here. My comment pertained to a fetus. Perhaps we are talking past each other.

Bart: What I had requested was simply this: A baby is born at 2:00. To end its life forcibly at 3:00 is murder. To end its life forcibly at 1:00 is a constitutionally protected right.

bapticus hereticus: Are you saying that the law permits murder of infants? To what are you specifically referring?

Bart: Now, what is the rationale behind that enormous distinction? Is it based in any convincing attribute of reality? Not that I know of.

bapticus hereticus: Sorry, Bart, but I am not following your line of thought. If it is that one that is healthy has his or her life taken then such is indeed problematic. If it is murder, then capital punishment is such, as well; however I am not sure many conservatives will concede such a point. I really need to read the case that you have in mind.

Bart: 3. You said: "The thought did not call for the negative treatment of feminists or homosexual activists, nor the misnaming of the pro-choice position." "Negative treatment" is really not a strong enough word. My objective is the utter defeat of their positions—indeed, the obliteration of their point of view from the human marketplace of ideas. The black flag, sir; the black flag.

bapticus hereticus: If you wish to be in competition with their ideas, I would not criticize you for such, but in describing their positions, at least be fair with them. It does not follow that feminists and homosexual activists are anti-family if they differ from your conception of family. Moreover, I would assume then that the utter defeat of their positions is an attitude that you would wish others to have toward you and your positions, as well. Probably not going to make for a world in which many Christians will be found to be loving. If we wish to be an anarchists, really stir things up a bit, we might try loving as Jesus loved and speak against the powers and principalities that bind the human spirit ... that is, mostly the stuff and organizations we glory in and disproportionately benefit.

CB Scott said...

Bart,

it is my opinion that Heretic is lost and on his way to hell. This is not due to his barbarian views relating to abortion and the sanctity of human life. It is due to the fact he cannot relate any real testimony of faith.

Also please know that to engage him is to commit yourself to debate a wad of bubble-gum.

He chews and chews and becomes more tasteless as the day wears on.

He is a pseudo-intellectual who is very aware of his deficiencies. His desire is to entangle those he knows are far brighter than he in debate in hopes of making himself to appear a peer.

Heretic,

Three things:

1. Lost people go to hell.

2. Jesus died for sinners.

3. If you call upon the name of the Lord you will be saved from lostness.

cb

bapticus hereticus said...

bapticus hereticus: What would qualify me as a peer, CB?

CB Scott said...

Heretic,

To become a peer may never happen in relation to Dr. Barber. Nor is it important.

What is important is that you banish any desire to be a peer to anyone and, also, to resist any temptation to present yourself as anyone's superior.

Those things are meaningless when we stand before a righteous and just God at an appointed time of which He alone knows.

What you must be concerned with is that we are all sinners before a righteous, just and holy God.

Realize that no matter any good you may have done or will do it will all fall short of the glory and holiness of God. There is nothing about your life sufficient to vanquish God's wrath against your depravity and participation in sin and rebellion against His holy standards as plainly revealed in His Holy and perfect Word.

With the knowledge of your hopeless and sinful condition there is something else you must realize.

Realize that even though you deserve hell and all that comes with it there is a blessed hope.

Jesus has died for your sins according to the Scripture. He was buried. He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures. He did this that you might have eternal life and escape the hell you deserve.

My beloved Heretic,

If, at this moment, you realize you are a sinner deserving hell for your sin and continual rebellion against a just and righteous God; please cry out to Him for mercy and forgiveness of your sin right now and believe on His Son, Jesus, who has made atonement for your sin by death, even the death of the cross.

My friend, if you will call upon the name of the Lord Jesus in faith, believing He can and will save you it can and will be so this day and the angels in heaven will rejoice.

And in the event of this glorious thing happening you will have no need of a peer for you will become the child of God and be seated in heavenly places with a song even the angels cannot sing.

Heretic, my friend, Please consider these things for it is to this end I have continued to prayerfully push you in all of our engagements.

In Christ Free,

cb

Bart Barber said...

BH:

I thought that my questions and examples were clear. I am not adequately eloquent to make them any clearer. My apologies.

bapticus hereticus said...

CB: [1] To become a peer may never happen in relation to Dr. Barber. Nor is it important. [2] What is important is that you banish any desire to be a peer to anyone and, also, to resist any temptation to present yourself as anyone's superior.

bapticus hereticus: [1] but, CB if it were to happen, what would first need to happen? given you have evaluated me and my lack of peer status, what do I need in order to qualify as a peer of Bart? are you a peer of and to Bart? if not, who qualifies as a peer? is anyone that posts on his blog a peer of his?

bapticus hereticus: [2] if i not be or refuse to be a peer of anyone, where do i, then, fit in with fellow citizens and people of faith? if i am not a peer to anyone nor should i desire such (for such would reveal a flaw in my character; that is, who would desire to be in relationship with another), that would make you my superior, no? furthermore, if i not be a peer to anyone, nor should desire such, and for grins, shall we, let's consider myself a Christian, how would the priesthood of the believer have any meaning for me as a baptist? how could it have any meaning for you? do people in the community of faith lose or never gain said status if one is not a minister, professor, or one with a Ph.D.?

bapticus hereticus: given i am or should be found without peer and given that i am surely not one to be considered superior, is it that i am to properly think of myself as inferior? would that not make me one of the "least of these" that are often mentioned? thus by your pronouncement it is that my place is to remain one of the "least of these?" and if such is the case, why would you continue addressing me with such invective? surely i need not say anything more other than i forgive you, CB. God's grace is sufficient for both of us.

bapticus hereticus said...

BH: I thought that my questions and examples were clear. I am not adequately eloquent to make them any clearer. My apologies.

bapticus hereticus: i think we understand where each stands. it is only on a single point that i am at a disadvantage given i don't have specific knowledge of the case. in any event, thank you for your responses.

volfan007 said...

Bapt. Heretic,

You should listen to CB. This man has shown you the love and concern of Christ this fine day.

David

CB Scott said...

My beloved Heretic,

You ask me if I am Bart's peer.

I must honestly confess Bart is not my peer. Nor are you.

For, of all sinners living presently; I am chief. I have no peer.

Yet, even though I am chief of all sinners, God's grace was sufficient to save me from the hell I most assuredly deserve.

Therefore, my Heretic friend, If the atonement of Christ is sufficient to save the chief of sinners (me); it stands to obvious reason that His grace is sufficient to save one such as you who is certainly not my peer as a sinner.

Beloved Heretic, leave off this vain search for significance and repent of sin and call upon Jesus for salvation from the penalty of your sin and rebellion toward Holy God.

I will continue to pray for you.

cb

bapticus hereticus said...

CB: Beloved Heretic, leave off this vain search for significance and repent of sin and call upon Jesus for salvation from the penalty of your sin and rebellion toward Holy God.

bapticus hereticus: OK, CB, if you are not Bart's peer, could you tell me who is? Is he without peer on this blog and among fellow baptists, yeah even among those to whom he ministers? Has the call to be a royal priesthood been superceded by a call to be a royal priesthood and a really royal priesthood or perhaps a royal priesthood and a really, really, royal priesthood? Are some to be priests to the other, but others, with no gift whatsoever (for some Christians is must be extraordinarily foolish to think that they have been empowered by God's Spirit), must not even think incarnational living is something they should expect from themselves as a Christian or could be a benefit to another, Christian or otherwise?

Secondly, what search for significance would I be engaging by posting on this blog? Do you think I find significance by observing your oft boorish behavior? Do recall that this peer stuff was introduced by your person, to which I have asked questions for clarification, and as of yet, you have not responded.

Third, can another be your peer as a sinner, CB? When Bart shares that he is the chief of sinners, is he lying? Let me see if I get this right: Bart is apparently without peer, given you are unable or unwilling to state who might be such or your reasons for such, and you are without peer for your sinfulness. My guess is that you may have given Bart and others pause should he or they make a claim to being the chief of sinners, for now he and they might think, well, is it me or CB? Was Paul lying? Didn't he say he was the chief of sinners? You have no peer, CB? Not even Paul? Goodness, do you have a quarrel with Paul?

Well, I guess, then, I am only an ordinary, garden-variety sinner, thus without any need to identify with the insights of Paul, and without any need of anything exceptional or that could be considered exceptional from God. And further I am with no relational expectations, and am to think such as proper, or thoughts that I could possibly have or should have any peers or anything to contribute among and to the children of God or otherwise. Thanks, CB, your help has been freeing.

CB Scott said...

I shall continue to pray for you Heretic. I shall pray that God convict you of your sin and show you you are damned for hell unless you repent and call upon the name of Jesus to save you.

If you are ever in Birmingham, feel free to call me and I will gladly share the gospel with you face-to-face. May God have mercy on your soul.

cb

bapticus hereticus said...

If you are ever in Birmingham, feel free to call me and I will gladly share the gospel with you face-to-face. May God have mercy on your soul.

bapticus hereticus: excellent, CB; perhaps I could attend one of your evangelism seminars where you share on the topic -- "So you think that only the Gospel can be offensive to some? Sure, but don't underestimate the power of the personal insult as a means to win people for Jesus."

bapticus hereticus said...

volfan007: baptist hereticus, Are your initials BC? or, PL?

bapticus hereticus: sorry that I missed your post. no.