Our friend John Connell is gone now. We still don't really know what happened to him. Was it all an accident? Did someone plan his demise? Maybe we will never know.
We do know that John was trying to tell us something. John's message to us was about love and forgiveness and peace. The board of directors for the Peaceful Assembly Church was trying to throw him out. He was being threatened with violence by at least one other man. But John chose to stay at his church despite all of that, presumably so he could keep talking to people about love and peace and forgiveness. So in a sense, you can say he died to bring people his message. I don't know, maybe we should try and listen to it.
Jesus spoke about love in his sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
The Bible has various things to say on the subject of peace, but I think John was mostly talking about peace in the sense of the opposite of war. If you, take Jesus' instructions in the sermon on the mount seriously, it would be pretty tough to start a war. How can you kill your enemies when you love them and pray for them? Try it...it's really hard to be mad at someone and simultaneously pray for them.
The biggest theme in what John had to say was on the subject of forgiveness. He learned the hard way what unforgiveness and bitterness can do to you. After spending years being eaten up inside over things done to him, he learned to forgive. He was able to move forward in life when he forgave. He was able to heal old wounds and end his own personal wars.
What did Jesus have to say about forgiveness? “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). He said we should forgive when men sin against us, not when they sin against us and apologize, or when they make amends. We should just forgive. Forgiveness is not necessarily an emotion, though hopefully the emotion follows, it's a declaration that we've forgiven the person who wronged us and have given up any right to bitterness and anger over the situation.
Tying it all Together
These three subjects are intimately tied together: love, peace and forgiveness. You can't love someone without forgiving them. It's tough to have peace without loving others. And how can you forgive without love in your heart?
If you contemplate Jesus' instructions on loving one's enemies, you may come to the conclusion that this just really isn't humanly possible. You would be right, in my opinion. I think part of the reason for the sermon on the mount is to bring us to the realization that we can never meet God's standards on our own. We need his help. Like with me, when I came to realize all the horror that God has forgiven me of, it helped me learn to forgive others. It wouldn't have made much sense to me to love my enemies or forgive those who persecuted me before I experienced the forgiveness provided by Christ. "But God demonstrates his love for us by the fact that the Messiah died for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:8 It is Christ's example and the work of his spirit in us when we are born again that allows us to truly have love and forgiveness for our fellow men, and to live in peace with them.
Ravi says it well:
Why no Peace
John's last post online:
Follow Him - by John Isaac Connell
Christ ain't about the pistol and knife, my friends.
Christ ain't about the riffle and sword.
Christ ain't about all those flags, my friends - nor who has the biggest gang.
Christ ain't about you and me - but Him.
Read the Gospel, and read it well, my friends.
Then, pick up your cross and follow.
Pick up your cross, and follow Christ, my friends.
Let us not wait until tomorrow.