On December 5th, Ronnie Smith was shot and killed in Benghazi, Libya while going for a morning jog. In response, his wife Anita wrote this shocking letter:
My husband and best friend Ronnie Smith loved the Libyan people. For more than a year, Ronnie served as a chemistry teacher in a school in Benghazi, and he would gladly have given more years to Libya if unknown gunmen had not cut his life short on December 5, 2013.
Ronnie and I came to Libya because we saw the suffering of the Libyan people, but we also saw your hope, and we wanted to partner with you to build a better future. Libya was very different from what we had experienced before, but we were excited to learn about Libyan culture. Ronnie grew to love you and your way of life, as did I. Ronnie really was “Libya’s best friend.”
Friends and family from home were concerned about our safety, as were some of you. We talked about this more times than I can count. But we stayed because we believed the Libyan people were worth the risk. Even knowing what I know now, I have no doubt that we would both make the same decision all over again.
Ronnie loved you all so much, especially his students. He loved to joke with you, tell stories about you, help you with your lives and challenge you to be all that you could be. He did his best to live out his faith humbly and respectfully within a community of people with a different faith.
To his attackers: I love you and I forgive you.
How could I not? For Jesus taught us to “Love our enemies” — not to kill them or seek revenge. Jesus sacrificed His life out of love for the very people who killed him, as well as for us today. His death and resurrection opened the door for us to walk on the straight path to God in peace and forgiveness. Because of what Jesus did, Ronnie is with Jesus in paradise now. Jesus did not come only to take us to paradise when we die, but also to bring peace and healing on this earth. Ronnie loved you because God loves you. Ronnie loved you because God loved him — not because Ronnie was so great, but because God is so great.
To the Libyan people: I always expected that God would give us a heart to love you, but I never expected you to love us so much. We came to bless you, but you have blessed us much more. Thank you. Thank you for your support and love for Ronnie and our son Hosea and me. Since Ronnie’s death my love for you has increased in ways that I never imagined. I feel closer to you now than ever before.
I hear people speaking with hate, anger and blame over Ronnie’s death, but that’s not what Ronnie would want. Ronnie would want his death to be an opportunity for us to show one another love and forgiveness, because that’s what God has shown us.
I want all of you — all of the people of Libya — to know I am praying for the peace and prosperity of Libya. May Ronnie’s blood, shed on Libyan soil, encourage peace and reconciliation between the Libyan people and God.
– Anita Smith
This is a powerful story of forgiveness which is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us. This story moves us because we understand the difficulty of forgiveness in the midst of such awful circumstances. The strength it would take to forgive such a person is awe-inspiring to us.
But, imagine how much more impact this story would possess if Anita Smith not only forgave her husband’s killer, but adopted him as her son. This type of love and forgiveness goes beyond all human comprehension! Our natural reaction screams "Revenge!" when we read of these instances. We immediately cry out for justice for the innocent, which of course means death for the guilty. What type of person would forgive the murderer of their love?
In Ephesians 1:3-6, we read these powerful words:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
You see, God not only forgave you of your sin, but He also adopted you as His child. This is a truth so deep that I think it may exceed the scope of human comprehension. How deep the Father’s love for us! How vast beyond all measure – that He would give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure. You, once His enemy, were adopted as a child according to the kind intention of His will which He freely bestowed on you in Christ.
Take some time this week and reflect upon the love of God toward you, and remember that this love is also bestowed on others. Just as Christ forgave, so should we forgive. Such is the love of Christ for us that He would send His only Son to die so that we, His enemies, could be adopted as children. Amazing.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.