After an act of violence took his sight, Rev. Johannes Christian learned forgiveness helps you see…with your heart
In 2001, Rev. Johannes Christian had everything going for him—he'd just finished his doctorate degree, his kids were in college and he was finally able to make his ministry a full-time job as the founding pastor of the Adoration and Peace Baptist Church in Columbus, OH. But one afternoon, as he was driving along the interstate, a teenager named Jacob McNary threw a grapefruit-size rock off an overpass. It smashed through Christian's windshield and broke every bone in his face, leaving him disfigured and completely blind.
“I vacillated between anger and confusion,” Rev. Christian has admitted. “I think God has a wonderful sense of humor, because I thought this was a big joke, and that they were going to take these bandages off and I was going to see. I went through the bartering with God. ‘God, I'll forgive this guy if you give me back my sight.’ God could heal the blind and he healed the lepers and he healed the lame, so I'm just going to sit here because he is going to heal me, too.”
Surgery after surgery, Rev. Christian prayed to regain his sight. “But none of that was working. . . I knew that God was saying I needed to forgive Jacob. That's where the change was. I went from angry and confused to, ‘OK, if this is my lot, then I need to know how to be satisfied with it.’ But most of all, I need to be an example to God and to my children.” So with God’s help and guidance, Rev. Christian says he set out to do one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do…forgive McNary.
McNary had confessed to attempted murder and gotten 12 years in prison, but two years after the accident, Rev. Christian went to visit him. “It was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever had,” he has shared. “I think it helped me really let go because he became a real person. Up to that point, we'd just been writing each other. This was an actual meeting where we could shake hands and ended up hugging before we left.”
But it was Rev. Christian that came away from the meeting feeling a new lightness. “People think that when you forgive somebody, it’s for the person who did you wrong, but I believe that it’s more for the person who got hurt, who’s been victimized,” Rev. Christian said. “The more I forgave Jacob, the easier it became for me.”
Today, Rev. Christian is spreading the power of God's love and forgiveness. He founded the Face of Forgiveness organization and this past June, he walked from Columbus to Cleveland in efforts to promote a National Day of Forgiveness Rally in August.
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