Originally published Thursday, 21 November 2013.
A letter arrived from prison back in February. Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, said, “I sent you something I wrote, I feel God has placed this on my heart. I hope it’s something you’d consider putting on your blog.”
And to that, I say, “absolutely.”
God has allowed both Anthony and I the opportunity to share this story with many. I believe it’s a story that needs to be heard, for there are many who remain chained to their past, to their resentment, their bitterness, and their lack of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a topic that will always resound in each of our hearts, mine included. It is so easy to hold on to our wounds, but what relief it is to finally let them go. [Tweet that]
So, without further adieu. Here’s a word from Anthony.
“I forgive you.” I read the words again. “I forgive you.” These weren’t just lightly said words from someone I had hurt with some casual remark. These words had come from the daughter of the man I had shot and killed eleven years earlier. [Tweet that]
Suddenly, the enormity of what I had done punched me right in the gut. Tears came, guilt threatened to overwhelm me. What had I done? How could I have done it? I asked God these same questions: how, why? He had always responded the same way Laurie did, “I forgive you.” I had taken that forgiveness for granted, I mean I knew His word in 1 John 1:9 said if we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us, but the cost of that forgiveness began to sink in.
And how did that explain Laurie forgiving me?
Yes, God’s word also tells us in Matthew 6:14 that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven but how many of us actually do it or receive it? Especially from someone we had hurt so deeply.
This is why Christ hung on that cross: forgiveness.
Not cheap forgiveness in the form of words we throw around hoping to make everything better. But sacrificial, pain-filled forgiveness. Forgiveness the world can’t understand, even us sometimes.
I knew Laurie had not said these words lightly, that it was one of the hardest things she’d done. But I also knew that her relationship with Jesus would not allow her any other way, “I forgive you.”
How many of us have that kind of relationship with God? My guilty feelings weren’t only about what I’d done, but the realization that I didn’t have this kind of relationship with my Lord and Savior.
How many times had I judged another inmate because of his crime? Unforgiveness.
How many times had I angrily thought about the past? Unforgiveness.
So, when Laurie forgave me it set in motion in my life a new attitude. I wanted to know Jesus! I wanted the kind of relationship with Him that allowed me to forgive, to love, and to seek the fallen. When you destroy someone made in God’s image, how can you make up for that? You can’t. But Jesus did, He died so that we can be forgiven. Because He did this for us, our relationship with Him must be sacrificial too. We have to forgive. How can we do anything less?
Die to self.
We have to forgive even when it’s the most counterintuitive, painful, gut-wrenching thing we’ll ever do. [Tweet that] Because after that, love flows in and it fills up the space that the anger and the hate and the bitterness took up. And it just may save someone else!
Let His light shine in you. Unforgiveness dims that light. It starts with forgiveness.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin. – Romans 4:7-8