FAITH: A Remarkable Story of Forgiveness | To live

Some challenging words from Jesus this week.

I want to think about the true range of love: “If you love those who love you, what do you deserve? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good for you, what do you earn? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-34).

When it comes to assessing Jesus’ questions, they are among the most focused and challenging. Have you seen these verses at work when a person really tries to love his enemy or do good for him?

I am reminded of a missionary to the Philippines, Lloyd Van Vactor, who was seized and held by a militant Muslim sect. He was led to a certain region to teach and serve Christians and Muslims and to create good relations between the two communities, with peace and reconciliation. The location for peace was around a school as both communities were engaged in education.

Then, on March 9, 1979, 11-armed men took Lloyd. Lloyd’s home church began praying for Lloyd, his wife, and the group of kidnappers. People asked why we should pray for these hijackers, and others said, “They get what they deserve.”

The church was now asked not to pray in general terms for Muslims and Christians; that’s relatively easy, but for the people who brought their friend.

While Lloyd was in captivity, his wife sadly died. Wise leadership then directed the anger of the congregation in a positive direction.

They started a commemorative grant fund in his wife’s name for people who might want to work in ministry or social work like her – the money poured in, as you can imagine.

After 20 days, Lloyd was handed over, without explanation, and no ransom was paid, although ransom was collected. Lloyd, now a widower, was given a choice of where all the money should go. To the surprise of many people, he took the scholarship money. He said he wanted to give it to students, not to American students, but specifically to Muslim students who were part of the Muslim sect that kidnapped him and threatened his life during those agonizing days of his incarceration.

It would have been easy for the congregation to help their loved ones at home, but this missionary decided to give to his real enemies and live one of the most challenging verses in the Bible: “If you love only those who love you keep, what merit is that to you?’ Retelling this remarkable story reminds me of Jesus’ words on the cross to his executioners: “Father, forgive them.”

Phil Collins is a pastor at Willow Park Church in Kelowna.

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