Several years ago, a friend loaned me a scholarly book written by a professor from Yale University which traced the development of the concept of the devil. While reading this book, I came across the story of Justin Martyr for the first time. Justin Martyr was a second-century philosopher in Rome who converted to Christianity after watching Christian martyrs serenely accepting violent death in the arena. I felt impressed to write a screenplay about him. Thousands of hours of research later, I launched the website I then decided to write a novel based on the story of the noble woman who inspired Justin’s second petition to the emperor. It never seemed to click until after Calvin’s death, when I was impressed to change the focus of the story to the theme of forgiveness.

Consequently, I wrote the award-winning novel Amora in an effort to honor this charge from my deceased brother to tell everyone that we need to forgive one another so we can find the love and healing we all desperately seek. I struggled with writing this book for years until it suddenly all came together. I truly felt inspired and give God credit for helping me write beyond my natural ability. I hope that my novel in some small way helps others along the difficult path of forgiveness so they, too, can enjoy the peace, comfort, and security that forgiving and being forgiven bring.

Below are a couple of selections from an earlier draft of this book that were cut out because they were too preachy for a novel. They are instructive, however, and better suited for this genre of book.

* * *

“That is the other issue bothering me,” Leo said. “I am tormented by guilt and shame. If I am not obsessing on revenge, then my mind is racked with guilt, and I feel like crawling into a hole and disintegrating. Your fellow believers’ kindness just makes it worse.”

Darius thought for a moment before he replied. “Guilt shows that you are still connected with God because you hear him calling you through your conscious to return to Him. However, shame is based on a lie that you are the sum of all of your actions instead of a child of God with innate value and goodness. Guilt is an invitation for healing and increased union, while shame isolates. Do you remember what I said earlier about how we connect with God through our relationship with others?


“We can only overcome our shame through our connection with other people and God. Loving relationships are the antidote to shame. God’s love is like a magnet, lifting us up to Him, empowering us to change our very nature. His infinite love is the power that can heal our soul and transform us from a vindictive, injured individual lashing out at everyone near and dear to us into a strong, healthy, caring, and happy person connected with everyone we meet.”

“That is quite a transformation.”

“Yes. That is why we refer to Christians as converts. Now, the full conversion may take a lifetime, but they are born into a new form of existence, a new way of living; they are born again into life with God and his healing power.”

“But I don’t see how someone realizes this freedom from guilt after he has done so much that he regrets?”

“It begins by realizing that we are all broken, flawed creatures who need to both forgive and be forgiven. None of us have developed to our full, ultimate potential. None of us have realized our telos. So we are all vulnerable, fragile beings subject to injury. Hurt is simply a part of life that everyone experiences. When we are in pain, it is natural to lash out and hurt others. Additionally, because we are all imperfect, we all make mistakes that hurt other people. So the need for forgiveness is universal.”

“I can agree on that point.”

“Once we realize we have done something wrong, then we need to do everything in our power to right that wrong. We need to take responsibility for our actions and restore what we have taken, whether it is money, trust, peace, or innocence. Whatever harm we have caused, we need to do our best to repair it.”

“That is only fair,” Leo said. “But sometimes it is impossible. Once some things have been broken, they can’t be repaired.”

“Yes, but we need to do whatever is within our power. We need to admit our error and apologize to those we have offended. Even though we all err and hurt others, we should not try to justify our behavior. We need to genuinely seek to help our victims become whole again, emotionally as well as materially. If they choose to forgive us, that is solely up to them. It should not be part of our equation; otherwise, our apology is not sincere but selfish.”

“Again, that all makes perfect sense.”

“Once you have reached out to those you have harmed, then you also need to forgive those who have injured you. That is one of the last and often one of the most difficult steps in finding peace and freedom from guilt. We all instinctively realize that we are hypocrites if we want forgiveness but are unwilling to forgive those who have offended us, so our guilt will still haunt us. But once we have trod this path, we can rely on God’s promise to forgive the sins of all those who come unto him and follow his example. He will then bless us with a clear conscience, free from guilt.

Leo sat silent for a moment, trying to assess these new ideas and how they applied in his life. Finally, he spoke. “I’m sorry, Darius, but all that matters is that he abused and killed my innocent little girl. I can never forgive Quintus. I can’t just pretend that this evil never happened,” Leo said.

“Of course, you can’t,” Darius said. “Leo, forgiveness does not mean we pretend that something bad did not happen or that it really didn’t matter. No. Forgiveness is based in truth. In order to truly forgive, you need to fully recognize the wrong that was done so that you do not withhold anything when you give it to God and trust him to execute perfect justice.”

“I don’t need God to execute justice when I have it in my hands,” Leo responded dourly.

“Are you sure it is full and complete justice?”

“Why not? If he dies, justice is satisfied.”

“Is it? Does it stop there? Is his miserable life really worth your daughter’s lost life, full of hope and joy? Will you forget about Natalie’s suffering and live a life of joy once Quintus is dead?”


“Of course not. We can never execute complete justice. Only God can.”

“Yes. He deserves eternal torment.”

“But are there others to blame as well? What does justice require of them? What about the slave who didn’t watch Esteban close enough or Amora for staying home? Do they deserve death?”

“That’s different.”

“Are you sure? Are you sure that you do not ascribe some blame to Amora deep within your heart? Maybe she ascribed blame to you. Maybe you even blame yourself. No, we can never completely satisfy justice. We only create more problems when we try to act as a judge.”
Leo sat silent, reeling from the sting of truth in Darius’s words.

Darius continued. “God sees everything. We only see a part of the picture. We cannot fully understand everything in order to properly judge others. Only God knows the intents of our hearts and our backgrounds and can make a perfectly just judgment. If we really want justice, then we have to trust God. He knows everything. But what are our criteria for judging? Nothing more than our own limited self-centered view of the world.”

“But I still see that what he did was evil and deserves retribution.”

“Of course.” Darius continued. “As children of the Great Lawgiver, we have the capacity to know what is good and what is evil, but we are in no position to ascribe blame. Forgiveness is giving justice its due, based on the judgment of the only being capable of executing it fully and exactly. Forgiveness consists of turning judgment over to God. It is relying wholly on the wisdom, justice, and mercy of God so we can be free to move on with our lives without the burden of harboring ill will and bad feelings. These negative emotions destroy our relationships with those who are close to us. No, Leo. Forgiveness is not the enemy of justice. It is its mate.”

* * *

Leo and the bishop sat partaking of the evening meal at the bishop’s home after the worship service. “I have never experienced anything like it before,” Leo said.

“What you felt was the Spirit of God. You experienced a glimpse of heaven and the bliss that accompanies our communion with God.”
“Is that something all Christians feel?”

“At times, when we follow the inspiration God gives us,” the bishop said. “You demonstrated your willingness to receive this blessing by using your free will to accept my invitation to ask for forgiveness. You exercised a particle of faith when you made the effort to stand up and speak to us, and in the process, you discovered the path to your ultimate happiness.”


“It actually is quite amazing how simple life really is, Leo. The purpose of our existence, our ultimate fulfillment and greatest joy, our telos is to become unified with God, our Creator.”

“That makes sense.”

“As we become more unified with God, we feel emotions more deeply and experience a fuller, more abundant life. Unlike what the Stoics teach, the emotions that move us are not something negative that we need to subdue. They are the heart of our existence, giving life to our whole being.”

“Certainly you are not suggesting that reason has no value, are you?”

“Of course not. Emotions and reason are both part of our divine nature. We need to learn how to use them in unison, like a couple dancing beautifully together as one entity. To become a complete whole, you need both―love and truth—with light being the cord uniting them to produce life.”

“So you don’t see them as opposite forces?”

“No. The more we seek love, light, truth, and goodness, the more they become unified into one eternal whole where our intellect and our emotions guide us to make correct choices and connect us with the Divine.”

“You keep referring to our connection and unification with our Creator.”

“Yes, that is the goal, our ultimate destiny. It is only possible through experiencing His infinite love for us. The essence and unifying force of divinity is love. We are all children of God, and the essence of our being, our identity, our intelligence is a spark of divinity that God has placed inside us. The essence of our persona is the same essence as God’s essence—love. This spark of divinity, this light of Christ, is eternal. It has always existed and will never be extinguished. This mortal existence is simply the means or vehicle that God uses to help us develop our divine nature, which is our capacity to love.”

“So the purpose of this world of strife is to develop our capacity to love?”

“Exactly. The tension between our need for connection and our desire for independence creates the dynamic for growth and the development of love.”

“I realize that love cannot exist without personal free will, but I don’t understand what tension has to do with it.”

“To some extent, you can think of it as balance between our individuality and our connection with others, but balance is passive and only reflects part of the picture while the tension between our desires for independence and connection creates the force to change and grow.”

“I think I see your point. We need to acknowledge our desire for love and friendship while maintaining our own identity.”

“Yes. The more secure we are in our own identity, the more we are able to open up and connect with others on a deep, intimate level.”

“Interesting concept.”

“But one cannot dominate the other, or it will squelch love. It is a true paradox. Both parties need independence in order to increase their unity. That is why relationships are so important,” the bishop said. “We develop love by showing love, and we show love through sacrifice and forgiveness.”

“So the more we exercise our free will by forgiving others and sacrificing our time and resources for them, the more love we will feel for them?”

“You are a fast learner. Just think of mothers and the love they have for their children.”

“Good point.”

“Also, the more unity we feel with others―the more we share their joy and misery―the more our love for them grows, and in the process, the more we become like God and connected to Him.”

“So we connect with God by connecting with other mortals?”

“To a great extent, yes. We are all children of God and have a spark of His divinity―love―inside us that yearns to connect with others, but sadly, we so often live a life of loneliness.”

“I think universal loneliness is the fate of all mankind.”

“Relationships are what matter most―our relationships with people, with nature, and with God. We spend so much time isolating ourselves from others in a foolish attempt to insulate ourselves from pain, but that isolation and independence are what cause so much of the pain we fear. So we try to avoid the hurt that sometimes comes from relationships and cut ourselves off from others. We seek independence―independence from people and independence from God. We want to control our world, and, in the process, we sever ourselves from all that is important. What a shame. The pain we run from becomes a reality of our own making.”

“Unfortunately, I understand your point more than you realize.”

“This is what life is all about, Leo. Sharing our treasured thoughts and feelings with someone else who values and appreciates them. That is why family and personal relationships are so important.”

“I agree.”

“It is so important to maintain them and not let life’s disappointments separate and isolate us so we shrivel up and die emotionally.”
Leo nodded his head.

“I don’t want to intrude in your personal life, but your son needs you.”

“You are right. My eyes have been opened these last few months, and I feel guilty for my neglect and abuse.”

“God will arrange for you to make amends if you really want to.”

“I do, but it is hard to look in the mirror and see all my faults.”

“To truly connect with others, we need to recognize our own flawed human state so we can see the humanity in others and relinquish judgment to God, including that of ourselves.”

“I think it is easier to forgive someone else than it is to forgive yourself.”

“You may be right. Just remember that we are all children of God, learning how to develop his spark of divinity inside us. So we all make mistakes along the way and say or do things that hurt others. We injure others just as they hurt us. There really is not much difference between any of us. We are all stumbling along the path of life, trying our best based on our limited vision and understanding. Some of us simply have had better opportunities to learn a few more lessons than others. And one of the main lessons is the need to forgive, to extend the same grace and mercy to others that we desire for ourselves, and to grant ourselves the same privilege.”

“I appreciate your message. Your Christian teachings have been encouraging.”

“Following those uplifting feelings is how we grow in love and build our relationship with God. We begin to see things as God sees them. We gain a much broader view of life and eternity. Life, with its pain and suffering, begins to make sense. We have more understanding of others and tolerance for their shortcomings.”

“Tolerance has never been one of my strong points.” Leo chuckled.

“Nor mine, until I learned these truths. It is interesting that the more I get to know and understand others, the more my love for them grows, and I feel more connected with them. So when they are in pain and say or do hurtful things to me, I become more accommodating and feel less need to strike back. The love I feel for others soothes the sting of the hurt they inflict on me.”
“So you are saying there is a connection between my loneliness and my irritation with others?”
“Possibly. Leo, you are a good man, in spite of the errors you have made. I invite you to no longer remain an isolated stranger but become a fellow citizen in the household of God to partake of communion with Him and fellow believers.” Leo looked at the bishop in longing disbelief. The bishop continued, “I invite you to accept Christ as your Savior and follow his example of love and forgiveness.”

“I can’t. I am not worthy.”

“That is the point, Leo. None of us are worthy. That is why we need a Savior. You don’t need to be perfect. You only need to have a desire to follow the Savior’s example to do the right thing.”

“But look at what I have done. If only I had made other choices, then maybe I could become a Christian.”

“It doesn’t do any good living in the past and speculating on what could have been. We need to look forward to eternity and not get bogged down in the mistakes of our past.”

“But there are so many.”

“We can learn from our mistakes. It is never too late.”

“How do I know I won’t make the same mistakes again?”

“We cannot succeed on our own. We need God to fill our hearts with His love so He can convert us. We just have to open our hearts. That is how He lifts us up to become unified with him. Jesus showed us the way. He was the faithful witness. Through his suffering and death, we can find the path to peace and understanding. He has shown us the way, and as we use our free will to try to follow him, he will guide and sustain us.”

“You make it sound easy, but I know it will be very hard to change.”

“We receive what we want as demonstrated by our choices in life. The more love, light, truth, and goodness that we seek, the more God gives us and the more glory and joy we obtain in the hereafter. It is never too late to choose God and happiness.”

“That is a major commitment.”

“Yes. That is why God wants all of our heart and not just part of it. He wants us to become heirs, joint heirs with Christ, to inherit all that God has―all love, all joy, all glory. This is only possible by becoming united with Him by opening our heart and inviting Him in. We need to use our free will and enter into the covenant of baptism as an expression of our love for Him. He will then fill us with His love so that it will grow inside us and eventually empower us to fully love Him and others, even love our enemies. He is the one who gives us the power, not ourselves.”

“I’m still not sure I am worthy.”

“God has already reached down and touched your heart. You felt Him today. He is calling you to come home to Him. Do you want to respond or just ignore His invitation?”

“I would like to.”

“Then you are ready. We are never worthy. That is the wrong criteria. The desire to accept God’s love and to follow Him is all that he asks of us to be able to enter the path to heaven.”

“Then I am ready to make that commitment.”

“God bless you, my dear friend.”

Emotional Black Holes Book
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