I went to hear Bill Clinton on Friday night. He's a great speaker who shared with humility, transparency and passion about his work with AIDS, Global Warming, Economic Development and Disaster Relief. He shared a number of fascinating stories, but I wanted to pass this one on to you because it really rang true within me.
He told about when Ariel Sharon went up on the Temple Mount several years ago with a group of Israeli policemen. This was the first time in years that a Jewish PM had been there because of the political and religious tensions. Yasser Arafat who was the leader of the PLO at that time saw the incident as a provocation (which it was) and launched another violent uprising on the West Bank. Clinton invited Arafat to a meeting a pleaded with him to meet Sharon's actions with peace rather than violence. His suggestion was to meet Sharon on the Temple mount along with a little girl and some flowers for the Israeli PM and offer to give him a tour of the sites there. He pointed out that Arafat was allowing Sharon to determine his actions and responses and that in the end, Sharon was manipulating Arafat to make him do what he wanted him to do.
He contrasted that story with Nelson Mandella who was imprisoned for 14 years for his resistance against the government. He talked about the personal cost to Mandella and how he missed seeing his kids grow up, lost his wife and years of "family" time, not to mention his freedom. Clinton asked Mandella if he hated his oppressors and jailers. Mandella said he did for a while, but came to the conclusion that while his jailers could lock him up, separate him, torture and potentially kill him, they were powerless to take his heart and mind unless Mandella let them. Mandella realized that even as he was being released hatred and unforgiveness would keep him a prisoner if he wouldn't let it go and so he did. He went so far as to invite his jailers to sit in his cabinet when he was president of South Africa.
Hatred and resentment make you small and keep you small. Forgiveness and grace make you a bigger person... and a better person. No wonder Jesus said, forgive those who hurt you. It's not always easy, but it makes for a much better life, for you and those around you.