By JARVIS WARD
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32, ESV
From its inception, I have participated in Mission Mississippi because I am convinced of the absolute truth that nothing is as wonderful as knowing and growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ the Lord — NOTHING.
The idea of Christians who are black and white rightly relating across racial (and denominational) barriers is a biblical prescription to those who do not yet know the healing power of a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. The life-change and culture-change impact of Christians loving each other, not just in words but in works, behavior and worship, is transformational.
It is almost inevitable in a relationship, whether a marriage, family, job, congregation or community, that at some point you’ll experience some type of hurt or offense, whether intended or not. In my 37 years of marriage and ministry, I know this to be true.
During the critical early years of my now almost 30-year journey with Mission Mississippi, it was hurtful and disappointing to receive the news that a dear white Christian brother, whom I trusted, was undercutting me behind my back. With a desire to increasingly know and grow in deepest intimate fellowship with the Lord, I understood that the Lord called those who know, love, worship and serve Him to forgive, even when the offender does not confess or seek forgiveness. This was a key and decisive Mission Mississippi Moment for me.
I know Jesus Christ, the great reconciler, makes right relations possible, first with God, then with one another. Forgiveness is an act of the will, just as loving your neighbor, loving your enemy and those who offend you is a willful choice. Love for Jesus Christ compels Christians to love and forgive fellow believers and those who are near us and not like us.
In the early months and years of Mission Mississippi, I am sure the Holy Spirit used all the examples I witnessed on the part of many black servants of the Lord. They shared some of their stories of the painful acts of racial and economic injustice inflicted on them and their families by professing white Christians, and chose to forgive.
Those deliberate acts of biblical forgiveness infused the Mission Mississippi movement to become the best-practice model of racial reconciliation in the USA, resulting from true and authentic confession, repentance and forgiveness. Jesus’ example is in His words, “Unless you forgive, you are not forgiven,” and in His actions.
I chose to forgive for Christ’s sake and the gospel, for my sake and for my white Christian brother’s sake.
It is so freeing that I do not have to deal with executing judgment on an intentional or unintentional offender or wrongdoer who has caused hurt in my life. For my precious relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, my calling is to forgive out of love for God and God’s people and creation. The almighty and all powerful and all just Lord of eternity handles the judgment. God is faithful.
Just as the vision and ventures of Mission Mississippi for almost three decades would be empty and vain were it not for the foundation of Jesus Christ, I too would be just as vainly empty and eternally doomed, were it not for the love of God providing forgiveness and redemption from my intentionally selfish, self-seeking and proud existence.
Lovingly forgiving one another is part of the ongoing lifestyle practice and process of “going deeper with God and with one another.” #ForgivingOneAnother
Jarvis Ward is married to Brendalyn, and they have five children: Jervette (Kenneth), Brandan (Kaitlyn), Brena, Jenell (Cyril) and Jenae. They have five granddaughters, and a grandson coming soon. Jarvis has served as president of the PEARSON Foundation, based in Pearl, since 2014.