Matthew 5:7 says the merciful are blessed, and they will receive mercy. The concept of forgiveness is a pillar in the Christian faith. We must forgive and ask for the understanding of those who trespass against us because that’s what God would want us to do. We must not seek revenge or anything like that because that goes against God’s word and teachings. Pastor Mark Bethea of First Baptist Church Montgomery in Alabama knows all too well about forgiveness. When someone set his church on fire last week, he asked the church to pray for their forgiveness instead of condemning the arsonist.

Details on the Fire

It was about 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning when fire alarms started going off inside the church. Someone used gasoline to set the church on fire intentionally. The fire caused damage to the carpet, pews, and an administrative area. However, the cross near the pulpit wasn’t damaged. This fire left church leaders scrambling for an alternative for how the church would have their service that upcoming Sunday. Ultimately, leaders decided to have Sunday service in a parking deck across the street from the church. They wanted to hold it in a parking lot across from the church, but inclement weather played a factor.

Despite the circumstances, hundreds of church members still gathered to hear Pastor Bethea’s message. Cleanup crews will spend the next few weeks getting rid of the damage while other teams repair the sanctuary. Until the cleanup and repair crews finished fixing everything, church leaders decided that virtual services would have to do. Pastor Bethea says he is thankful for the firefighters, first responders, and the community for helping in his time of need. However, Pastor Bethea decided to take one step further; instead of condemning the arsonist and speaking negatively about them, he decided to ask his churchgoers to be gracious toward the arsonist, who police say is 27-year-old Xiaoquin Yan. She was arrested and charged with second-degree arson, and police think the fire caused $25,000 worth of damage.

Forgiveness Is the Key

There is another verse in Matthew on the topic of forgiveness; that verse says if you forgive others when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. Pastor Bethea could have criticized Yan for setting fire to his church; Instead, he chose to take the higher road. Bethea knew that speaking badly of Yan wouldn’t get him his church back. He chose compassion because Yan may be going through some things that are unknown to the public.

Because Pastor Bethea forgave Yan, God will look upon him with forgiveness shall he ever make a mistake. This incident reminds us that we should keep forgiveness in our hearts every day, not only for those who trespass against us but for everyone. Everyone is going through trials, which may cause them to make mistakes. Instead of condemning them and automatically thinking they’re a terrible person, we should consider how we can show them compassion. Compassion is another cornerstone of the Christian faith. God forgives us and shows us compassion, so we should do the same for others.

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