Christian author Gary Smalley writes about Denny who is coming home from high school football practice. As he gets close to the low income apartment where he lives he hears his mother’s screams filling the cool air. He had heard her far too many times as he rushed to rescue his mother from his drunken father. This time would be different because he was a honed athlete from football, and something snapped inside him. He hammered his dad with two quick punches. Then, empowered by years of burning memories, he lifted his father from the floor, and threw him through their second-story window. Amazingly, his father sustained only minor injuries in the fall. But memories of what he’d done haunted Denny through two marriages, and a string of friendships shattered by a fiery temper. He even struggled with alcoholism, something he swore he would never destroy his life with. He did not understand how much he needed to forgive his father to be free from his struggles.
After six years Denny finally consented to attend church with an old high school team-mate and eventually came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Soon he met and married a wonderful Christian widow. Prompted by his wife and several Christian friends, Denny placed three phone calls to his dad over the course of seven years. Each call began with, “Dad, I love you,” only to be abruptly cut off with a prompt “click” on the other end. Finally, on the fourth attempt, Denny was able to convince his father to listen. In the ensuing moments, he explained how much his life had changed, and how he could forgive, and honor his dad now because of all he had been forgiven.
Several months passed. One day his mother called him at the office with the shocking news that his father was near death. His dad had also checked into an alcoholic rehab center so he could talk to his son sober before he died. When they got together God was able to use Denny to lead his father to the Lord. Several months later, his dad died. Denny waits with great anticipation to see him again, eager to pick up where they left off as they both experience the gift of eternal life in heaven as promised by God. Denny now moves through life unencumbered by the chains of hate that once paralyzed him. That is the amazing power of forgiveness, freedom from the pain and darkness that comes from offense, unforgiveness, and the desire for revenge.
People naturally hold onto offense and the evil that awaits. It is unnatural to forgive people, but faith in Jesus Christ can give us the courage to seek forgiveness, and see its transformative power in those relationships that matter to us. Remember, when we seek forgiveness in a relationship we do not have reconciliation or trust. These are built over time, but cannot even happen until forgiveness starts the process. We do not have to be friends, but that can surely happen with more work. We are not avoiding pain, but we are opening the door to healing. Jesus puts it this way, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Is there someone you are supposed to love, but there is an offense hurting your relationship? Is there any sin that our Christian faith says we don’t have to forgive? Since Jesus forgives us of all our sins, and allowed Himself to be crucified for those sins, can He give you the courage to forgive all sins?
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