My earliest memories are tied to the strict Jewish religious observance in our family life that took place under the watchful eye of my father. But as observant as my father was, there was a side to his personality that was, quite frankly, brutal – even to the point of physical violence.
My parents divorced when I was about five years old, and although I was too young to really understand, my four older sisters were deeply affected, as was my mother. My last memory of him was that of him lashing out at us. After that, he passed out of my life.
As I became a teenager, my anger toward him turned to hatred and I longed for the day I could meet him and inflict pain upon him to get even. But when I came to faith I recognized how lost he must have been and how even now his position apart from Messiah had such frightening eternal consequences. As I began to mature in my faith, I wanted to see him again in order to develop a relationship so that I could witness to him.
I also understood that my own relationship with God was paralyzed unless I could realize God’s love for him. The words of 1 John 4:20 impressed me deeply – “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
Realizing I had no love for my father, I began praying that the Lord would love him through me. As I prayed this prayer the Lord began to give me a genuine love for a man I only knew in the most bitter and hateful manner.
Although I never did see my father again, I came to realize that I must learn to forgive him through the power of Messiah’s love. And in the process, my heart was changed.