(played by Jacob Latimore) who spends Christmas with his estranged grandparents, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs, played by Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett. While Hughes does not want to follow the Reverend’s rules, the entire family discovers the importance of reconciliation, forgiving one another, and faith. Risen talked with the cast about forgiveness, family, and living out an authentic faith. We interviewed Whitaker and Bassett in 2013 and talked to them about loving your enemies and dealing with heartache.
In the movie Whitaker’s character is preaching and encourages the congregation to love their enemies. Whitaker reflects on how we can practically love our enemies.
“People have to recognize that when you hold these pains and anger inside yourself, you can never become completely free to forgive. It doesn’t mean that you have to say what was done was right, but you have to find that sense of forgiveness. I think that is one of the doctrines that is taught in all traditions, but certainly in Christianity–forgiveness. You can forgive the world because that is ultimately what God did for us. He forgave our sins. It is a powerful message. The big key again is forgiving that person. Sometimes people need to forgive themselves even for forgiving others. A person says, “I forgive. I’m letting that go.” And then they feel guilt because they didn’t let it go inside themselves. They didn’t truly forgive themselves. “You’re okay, even though you did this horrible thing to me.” There are a lot of lessons about forgiving of self and forgiving of others that we can learn in order to be truly free and complete.”
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b]6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:4-7
In the movie Bassett’s character deals with heartache when her daughter walks away from her family and faith. She shares her words encouragement for those that are in a similar situation.
“It can be really challenging and difficult. We can’t hold on too tightly to people. We have to allow people to discover and express themselves. To the best of our abilities, we have to try to not judge others and put ourselves in the seat of judgment. As long as there is breath, there is an opportunity for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. We are born to be in relationship with one another. It is hard to do that when you shut down or shut someone out or cross someone off your list because they don’t agree with the way you think or see things. There are some things that we can take a hard line on if they mean a lot to us, but we are not clones of one another. It is exciting to think that there are different ways of looking at a situation. There are different perspectives.”
Love your enemies. This can be difficult. Pray and ask God to show you how you can forgive them. Forgiving someone does not mean that you condone what they did was right. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to a pastor or counselor if someone has caused you deep pain. Pray and ask God how you can show His love to your enemy. This is not an easy task. Ask a friend, small group member or your pastor to pray with you. They might even have some wisdom to share with you from their own experience.
Pray for those that have walked away from the faith. It might be a friend, family member or someone at church. Pray and ask God to show you how to respond. He might want you to meet up with them and hear how they are doing. He might want you just to pray for them or he might even want you to invite them back to church. Ask God to help you look past the person’s actions and to their heart instead. It can sometimes be helpful to remember a period of time in our own lives when we walked away from God and how others reached out to us.
Invite someone to church. The Christmas season is one of the few times that people are more open to the Gospel and visiting church. Pray and ask God to show you who He wants you to invite to church or an outreach event. It might be a classmate, co-worker, neighbor or friend. Ask Him to give you the boldness needed to invite them and to soften their heart to be open to attend. Sometimes it can help to share with the person what to expect when they come to church or an event, including what the appropriate attire is.