The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo

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February 22, 2011 by Chris French

                  Rebecca’s dad is an ex-Navy brawler turned preacher. He meets her mother at a revival he’s preaching and it was immediate love apparently. They were married and eventually had a daughter. They moved to Sellerstown, North Carolina where Robert, Rebecca’s dad, took the pulpit position at the Free Welcome Church. Little did he know that the man living across the street from his family’s parsonage would turn his life into a cesspit of fear. The man hated Robert because he took the control of the church away from this man and gave it to the church. In retaliation Horry Watts set off 10 bombs near their house over the span of 2 years. He also hired a hoodlum to rain buckshot thru the young family’s home. Many, many things are taken from this family and as Christians they forgive and pray for their persecutors.

       Here’s some of their conclusions: Forgiveness is the language of Heaven, therefore as citizens of that long awaited country we need to speak that language very well. Forgiveness needs to be our default setting. It needs to be the thing we do as someone hurts us. That’s difficult, but it’s not impossible and God requires it of us. In fact to have our own sins forgiven we need to forgive the people who have hurt us (Matt. 6.14-15). He doesn’t qualify that forgiveness. He doesn’t say, “If your spouse cheated on you then you don’t have to forgive them.” He doesn’t say, “If someone killed my best friend then I don’t have to forgive them.” He says forgive if we want to be forgiven. That’s not the only reason we forgive though. We forgive because we’ve been forgiven so much and so freely that I don’t have a right to hold a grudge against anyone for anything they’ve done.

       Forgiveness should be our “heavenly habit”, not something we feel obliged to do. I feel obliged to pay my taxes because if I don’t I get sent to prison. I forgive people because God has changed me. I’m no longer doing the things I want to do, but now I’m looking for ways to show everyone around me about my Father. I get an opportunity to show them His love when I forgive them for the ways they’ve hurt me.

        None of this means forgiveness is easy and when you read the book you’ll find this family struggling with it, but they do it. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary if we’re to be people Jesus will be proud of. You may even forgive someone then days, months or even years later find yourself having to forgive them all over again. That’s okay, because forgiveness isn’t an emotion, it’s a decision! A decision I MUST make.

          A quote from the book says, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” That’s so true! I spend a lot of time thinking about how that person wronged me and hating them when that doesn’t effect them at all. It’s killing me though! I keep myself in a spiritual and emotional prison by holding onto that grudge or hate. I can tell that I’ve let that go when I see them and automatically think that I want the best for them. I want them to flourish. At that point I can know that I’ve completely forgiven them, that’s not to say I won’t have to again. I might.

           Instead of being mad at a person maybe I’m mad at God. After all He is Sovreign and He allowed the bad things to happen to me. While I’m remembering things I also need to remember that in His Sovreign will He works out all things to my benefit.

         I really enjoyed this book. It challenged me a lot. I thought I was a forgiving person, but if I was in Robert’s shoes I would have walked across the road and scrubbed the floor with Horry Watts. He does some insane things to the Nichols family, but that doesn’t mean they were exempt from Jesus’ command to “bless those that persecute you,  bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12.14)


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