In July 1981 the perpetrator, Ali Agca, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Pope John Paul II asked people to pray 'for my brother Agca, whom I have sincerely forgiven'.
Two years later, he was to take the hand of Ali Agca, then in prison, and quietly tell him that he had forgiven him for what he had done (even though his would-be killer had not asked for forgiveness). He developed a friendship over the years, meeting Agca's mother in 1987 and his brother a decade later. In June 2000 Agca was pardoned by the Italian President at the Pope's request. In February 2005 Agca sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well. When the Pope died on 2 April 2005, Agca's brother, Adrian, gave an interview saying that Agca and his entire family were grieving and that the Pope had been a great friend to them.
Pope John Paul II's response of love and mercy is exemplary. God's love and mercy is even more extraordinary because 'At the cross of Jesus, pardon is complete. Love and justice mingle, truth and mercy meet.'
In my struggles to forgive certain people who have harmed me or my family, I read this story with hope and joy, even if it means I am also seething with resentment and pain.
When asked about forgiveness, Jesus teaches we must forgive "70 times 7!" (Matthew 18:21-22). I believe Jesus is telling us to forgive a person that many times for each account. This doesn't mean you let people walk all over you or that there cannot be justice in the world. But what he is saying is that each time your heart breaks because of something that went down that needs to be forgiven, then forgive, forgive, forgive.
I think Jesus is reminding us that our anger and unforgiving heart bind us to an unhealthy way of life; one of anger, hate, retaliation, war, etc. He always point back to God, whose mercy and forgiveness frees us and reconciles us in love and peace. Same is true about our relationship with others. In the same way, Jesus' healing ministry was all about forgiveness. As was his death and resurrection. Jesus taught forgiveness is one of the greatest forms of love, especially when we forgive an enemy.
This is radical love. But it's the kind of love God has for us. Jesus is that perfect love. And gave us that perfection with his entire being. By his sacrifice, the world will be healed and redeemed through perfect love, and forgiveness.
Think about who you need to forgive and ask yourself if you can love them just as God loves and forgives you. Then pray: "Lord, help me to love, like Jesus, in an all-embracing way. Help me never to seek revenge but to extend mercy and forgiveness and love...even upon my enemies. Amen."
Inspired by my morning devotional from "Bible in a Year 2017" provided by Nicky Gumble, the Vicar of HTB church in London, and the pioneer of Alpha.