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“Father, forgive them; they know not what they’re doing.”
Jesus Christ to His Father while being crucified
The Bible is a really complicated piece of writing to understand.
Still, it’s not what I don’t understand that bothers me.
Like Mark Twain, it’s what I do understand that keeps me up at night.
The greatest lesson the Bible teaches came from a dying Christ that we celebrated this past Easter.
It’s on the most holy virtue of forgiveness. It’s probably something that we all have trouble doing.
I sure do anyway.
Sometimes things that happened to me many years ago will still make me furious when I think about it.
That’s a sign you haven’t truly forgiven. When you can’t forgive, you can’t seem to have peace either.
Here’s a story told by a minister’s wife years ago on the subject that always stuck with me.
Both this gracious lady and her husband have passed on now.
He and his wife went from city to city holding revivals at different churches for most of their lives.
They weren’t famous like, say, Billy Graham.
I had never heard of them before myself.
They would do their preaching like all revivals.
Afterwards they would always invite people down from the congregation that wanted to seek forgiveness and give their lives to Christ.
It’s a fairly common practice among some religions.
One night, in a large city, a really dangerous- looking fellow came down.
You never know, but this guy appeared to be the “real deal” and they were a little bit leery of him.
He was deeply troubled and did want forgiveness for his dark past.
The minister’s wife talked with him for a long time after everyone left.
But he was unconvinced that he could ever be forgiven of his sins.
He felt they were just too great. She couldn’t convince him of God‘s mercy, no matter how hard she tried.
He thought she was naive and finally scoffed at her by saying, “You don’t know what I’ve done!”
The minister’s wife persisted. She was sure she had heard it all. How wrong she was.
Finally he said, “You don’t understand. Do you know what I do? I kill people. They tell me who and I shoot’em and leave them on the street to die. Can your God forgive that?”
She was totally shocked and out of her league by this revelation.
It took a moment for this woman to gather herself up and she finally said, “Yes, He can if you want to be forgiven!”
Now it was time for the killer to be shocked.
The killer had thought she would just run from him, but she didn’t.
They prayed together.
Then the minister’s wife witnessed the greatest miracle that a loving God Almighty can ever send down to His children.
It wasn’t a physical miracle.
It was a miracle of the heart.
You see, the killer truly felt forgiven.
He began to praise God for breaking the bonds of sin that held his soul bound to this earth.
The minister’s wife told him that they would help him get out of this life he was living.
But he refused her help.
This man walked out of the revival saying he was going to go back to these people he killed for and tell them he was quitting.
Now it was her turn to think he was dangerously naive.
How do you tell people like this that you’re going to “quit” murdering for them and walk away?
She begged him not to do this.
But he left anyway with this overpowering joy in his heart saying that he knew he was “forgiven.”
He wasn’t naive, though.
He knew what he was doing.
He went back to where he came from with his message.
The gang he belonged to chained him to the back bumper of a car and dragged him through the streets.
Then they dumped what was left of him on the road to die in the same way he had done to others.
The minister and his wife searched the town to find him.
He had been brought into a hospital. He was torn up almost beyond recognition from head to toe.
Their first thoughts were, “what have we done?”
But you know what was strange?
The killer looked up at them with nothing but that same pure joy in his heart they had left him with at the revival. He said he didn’t care about his body because he was forgiven.
The man had indeed walked into that revival a grave sinner and had walked out a forgiven man.
He died a few days later.
Satan lost a soul that day.
I’m sure that howls of anguish echoed off the outer reaches of hell while heaven rejoiced over a lost soul who was now saved.
You see, forgiving has incredible healing power because it comes from God. Hatred does nothing but destroy and comes from the devil.
A dying Christ gave his last teaching on forgiveness. It must have been what He most wanted us to remember.
I forget this lesson all the time.
I wish I didn’t.