Who are you in the picture?

Rev. Kenley Mann October 7, 2019

“Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”  — Corinthians 2:7

Hubert Humphrey, a former U.S. vice president, died on Friday, January 13, 1978. On a Sunday afternoon, President Carter, former President Ford, Vice President Mondale, and many other political leaders attended the funeral ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. 

Before he died from cancer, Humphrey personally invited disgraced President Nixon to attend his funeral. Nixon attended and it was one of his first public appearances since his resignation. When Nixon entered the room, no one came near him—none of the public officials and none of the dignitaries. He felt ostracized. In fact, he stood in a corner basically by himself.

Then President Jimmy Carter came into the room. He was about to take his seat when he noticed Nixon. President Carter made a point to walk over to him, reach out, smile, shake his hand, and embrace him. With a big smile, he said, “Welcome, home, Mr. President. Welcome home!” Jimmy Carter gifted Richard Nixon with grace and compassion, even though he had done nothing to deserve either. It really marked a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal. He was no longer overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

Who are you in this scene? Many of us might see ourselves as Carter reaching out to Nixon, as a Christian reaching out to a disgraced unbeliever. But no, all of us are Nixon, and it is not Jimmy Carter who is reaching out to us. It is Jesus.

We were disgraced. We were out of God’s grace. We did nothing to deserve his grace or his compassion, but he reached out to us with his love and his grace and his compassion, and it was this act of grace on God’s part, culminating in His Son’s cross and empty tomb, which motivates us to do good for others. 

Prayer: God of grace, may your sweet words of forgiveness saturate my mind and direct my thoughts. Help me see my offender through my Savior’s eyes. If I can be forgiven, so can he. Lead me and my offender to repent of every sin so we may rejoice in your forgiveness. Amen.