And He alone is truly forgiving,
all embracing in His love,
in sublime almightiness enthroned,
a sovereign doer of whatever He wills.
The Qur'an, Sura Al-Buruj 85:14-16, tr. Asad
I've a friend who is a preacher in Morocco, which is a very Islamic nation and currently a bit hostile towards and suspicious of Christians. She just sent me a copy of her 9/11 sermon in which she noted:
It may surprise us Christians to learn that Allah is named The Forgiving One 97 times in the Qur’an. I think (though I am not sure so don’t quote me on this), that this is the third most common name for God found in the Qur’an, right after Ar-Rahim (the merciful) and Ar-Rahman (the beneficent).
She then preached a marvelous sermon about forgiveness, especially in the face of 9/11 and our desire for vengeance. She closes with a great story that I'd like to share:
I want to close by reading to you some words written by Christian de Cherge, one of the seven Trappist brothers kidnapped by Islamic extremists in March, 1996, and murdered by them after two months of captivity; the stated reason for the killing was that the brothers were encouraging evangelism.
Brother Christian, prior of Notre Dame de l’Atlas monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria, had anticipated that one day, he might be killed in the terror ravaging Algeria. So he left a testimony for his family to open if and when that day came. So in May, 1996, Christian’s family shared these words with the world:
If it should happen one day, and it could be today, that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems set to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would hope that my community, my Church, and my family, would remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the one Master of all life was not a foreigner at this brutal departure… I would like them to be able to link this death with so many other deaths, equally violent, but shrouded in indifference and anonymity… When the time comes, I would like to be able to have that stroke of lucidity which would permit me to ask forgiveness of God and of my brothers in humanity, forgiving whole-heartedly, at the same time, whoever my killer might be.
Returning to the thought of forgiveness in the last words of his testimony, Christian addresses his killer:
And so, this letter of gratitude, this “A-Dieu”, committing all to God, is intended for you, also, my friend of the last moment, you who will know not what you do. If God our Father wills it, may we be allowed to meet in paradise, the two of us together, blessed thieves.
That is a fearful and wonder-ful legacy for us, brothers and sisters. It is my prayer that here we would cultivate a culture of gratitude and forgiveness that will help us all on the journey as we seek to trust and serve God, the Forgiving One, Allah Al Ghaffur. For God can and WILL redeem it all, bringing healing in our own lives and in this world that God so loves.
See Karen's complete sermon at the Jeff Street blog.