Cultivating Peace Habits

by Rick Love

Rain turned to hail as Rory and Linda Brannum drove down the road. They were shocked to see a naked woman in the distance on the side of the road. As they got closer, Lashunda Richardson dove right in front of their car. Rory slammed on the brakes and screeched to a halt – barely missing Lashunda. Rory jumped out of the car and called 911, thinking this was a suicide attempt.

Lashunda dashed back into a parking garage on the side of the road where her clothes were crumpled on the ground. Linda approached Lashunda cautiously, realizing something was terribly wrong with her and thinking she was perhaps the victim of a crime.

“What’s going on? Can I help you?” asked Linda. “You can help me with this!” snarled Lashunda in a cold menacing tone, as she pulled out a 5 inch knife blade and began stabbing Linda. Linda rolled up into a fetal position, protecting herself. Once Rory realized what was happening, he punched Lashunda in the face, dislodging the knife. A bystander then tackled Lashunda, who quickly jumped up and ran off.

Rory held Linda in his arms, fearing she was going to bleed out and die. Another bystander kneeled down, took off her blouse and pressed it firmly into Linda’s hemorrhaging wounds to stop the bleeding. The police chased Lashunda down and handcuffed her. When they put her in the police car, the hysterical woman turned around in the seat and kicked out the back window of the police car.

At the criminal trial two years later, after giving her testimony, Linda asked the judge if she could address her attacker. Linda approached Lashunda and in front of a stunned courtroom, said, "I forgive you for hurting me." Lashunda, who had expressed no remorse until that point, started to cry. She was later acquitted by reason of temporary insanity.

When I interviewed Linda, she told me it was easy to forgive her assailant. “Why do you think it was easy for you,” I asked? “I have always experienced such a strong sense of God’s grace in my life. Jesus has forgiven me, so I feel compelled to forgive others,” she said. “I actually care about Lashunda. I understand that there are people who have experienced much greater hurts than I have. But no one has experienced the kind of hurt that Jesus experienced. He faced terrible rejection and even God’s judgment on my behalf. Christ experienced this so that we could know the forgiveness of God.

“Ephesians 4:32 explains my experience: ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’” Linda continued, “I realize I am not the judge. 'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord! He will repay” (Romans 12:19).

These are two of the basic reasons for forgiveness in the Bible, so this didn’t surprise me. But the next words out of her mouth did.

“I think forgiveness is related to what Jesus said: ‘If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones’ (Luke 16:10 NLT). I always focus on forgiving little things, every single day. Because of this, I think I was able to forgive the big thing. I could forgive Lashunda because I have developed the habit of forgiving others."

What a profound insight! Linda had learned the habit of forgiveness. She had cultivated the habits of making peace. She mastered the ongoing and ever-deepening process of forgiving people from the heart.