Loving Your Enemies
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I met Anthony Ray Hinton while producing his story for The 700 Club. “Ray” as he liked to be called, was full of laughs and hospitality. The camera crew set up for the interview in Ray’s small, rural Alabama backyard gazebo where a big-screen television was perched on a shelf. Ray has spent many weekends there watching his beloved Auburn Tigers tear up the gridiron.
I had read about Ray’s story of injustice, pain, and loss. But what I wasn’t prepared for once the interview began was how Ray truly lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (NIV).
In 1985, Ray was unjustly accused of two murders. He spent nearly 30 years on death row in Atmore, Alabama, until February 2014, when the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously overturned his conviction on appeal. A year later, the state dropped all charges against him and he was released.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (NIV).
For Ray, the first three years on death row in Atmore, Alabama, were filled with thoughts of how to destroy the men who sent him there. He said he was filled with rage and bitterness until he looked in the mirror one day and didn’t like the man he saw. A Christian, Ray told God he wanted to change, to forgive those men, to love them, and begin praying for them.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (NIV).
As Ray forgave and prayed for these men, he also shared the love of Jesus Christ with other inmates—namely, Henry Hayes. The son of a KKK leader, Henry was raised to be a racist and was given the death penalty for killing a young black man. Ray was undaunted by Henry’s hatred of him. Ray invited Henry to a death row book club and in time Henry and Ray became friends. For 10 years and up to the day of Henry’s execution, Ray shared the love of Christ with him. Henry died a changed man and considered Ray a brother.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (NIV).
Perhaps, while reading this story, you’re thinking that of all people, Ray Hinton had a valid reason to hate the men who sent him to death row. However, Ray chose God’s way—to love. He helped one man change the course of his eternity... and perhaps many others.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (NIV).
Forgiving those who have harmed us frees us too. Jesus Christ asked Father God to forgive those who crucified Him. Through the love of Christ, Ray forgave those who imprisoned him. Who would you like to forgive today? Will you ask Jesus to help you love like He loves?
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