UNDERSTANDING THE GRACE OF GOD #5
ALL ABOUT FORGIVENESS #1
PART OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD
From the book "Swindoll's Ultimate Book of Illustrations and
A CARTOON in the New Yorker magazine showed an exasperated father
saying to his prodigal son, "This is the fourth time we've killed
the fatted calf." God does that over and over in our lifetime.
Bruce Larson, Setting Men Free
A SUCCESSFUL IRISH BOXER was converted and became a preacher. He
happened to be in a new town setting up his evangelistic tent
when a couple of tough thugs noticed what he was doing. Knowing
nothing of his background, they made a few insulting remarks. The
Irishman merely turned and looked at them. Pressing his luck, one
of the bullies took a swing and struck a glancing blow on one
side of the ex-boxer's face. He shook it off and said nothing as
he stuck out his jaw. The fellow took another glancing blow on
the other side. At that point the preacher swiftly took off his
coat, rolled up his sleeves, and announced," The Lord gave me no
further instructions." Whop!
J. Vernon McGee, Matthew
Beginning Anew (Also titled in some poetry books "A New Leaf")
He came to my desk with quivering lip;
The lesson was done ...
"Have you a new leaf for me, dear teacher? I have spoiled this
I took his leaf, all soiled and blotted,
And gave him a new one, all unspotted;
Then into his tired heart I smiled: "Do better now, my child!"
I went to the throne with trembling heart; The day was done.
"Have you a new day for me, dear Master? I have spoiled this
He took my day, all soiled and blotted,
And gave me a new one, all unspotted;
"then into my tired heart He smiled: "Do better now, my child!"
Kathleen Wheeler, quoted in John R. Rice, "Poems That Preach"
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER built the great Standard Oil empire. Not
surprisingly, Rockefeller was a man who demanded high performance
from his company executives. One day, one of those executives
made a two million dollar mistake.
Word of the man's enormous error quickly spread throughout the
executive offices, and the other men began to make themselves
scarce. Afraid of Rockefeller's reaction, they didn't even want
to cross his path.
One man didn't have any choice, however, since he had an
appointment with the boss. So he straightened his shoulders and
tightened his belt and walked into Rockefeller's office.
As he approached the oil monarch's desk, Rockefeller looked up
from the piece of paper on which he was writing.
"I guess you've heard about the two million dollar mistake our
friend made," he said abruptly.
"Yes," the executive said, expecting Rockefeller to explode.
"Well, I've been sitting here listing all of our friend's good
qualities on this sheet of paper, and I've discovered that in the
past he has made us many more times the amount he lost for us
today by his one mistake. His good points far outweigh this one
human error. So I think we ought to forgive him, don't you?"
Dale Galloway, "You Can Win with Love"
WE ARE MOST LIKE BEASTS When we kill. We are most like men when
we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.
William Arthur Ward, "Thoughts of a Christian Optimist"
FORGIVENESS is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.
Archibald Hart, quoted in James Dobson, "Love Must Be Tough"
THERE'S A GREAT MINISTRY In our generation. It's called Prison
Fellowship, directed by Chuck Colson. After his time behind bars,
he realized the awful lifestyle that's facing the criminal who
now is out, pardoned, and trying to get his or her life back
together. I found these words in one of Colson's pieces of
literature: "Nothing is more Christian than forgiveness ...
demonstrating trust in one who has fallen."
IT IS A WONDERFUL THING to see a prodigal return and to applaud
it. I know a pastor who went through the horrors of public
discipline of a brother in their church and it was dreadful. In
fact, it made the news. Many of us heard about the discipline of
this well-known Christian who had shipwrecked. And that brother
walked away from God for several years. Finally he turned around
and came back. He wrote a letter of apology ultimately. He said,
"You were right. I was in sin. You put your finger on it. I
rebelled and I rejected. But I want you to know, I see the wrong
of my actions and I've come back."
You know what the church did? They had a party - this same church
that had disciplined him. They bought him a sport coat and a new
pair of shoes. They put a gold ring on his finger. And they
served him prime rib. It was an evening of praise as this brother
was brought back into fellowship. And that also made the news.
There's not enough of that kind of news.
ONCE PRESIDENT LINCOLN was asked how he was going to treat the
rebellious Southerners when they had finally been defeated and
returned to the Union of the United States. The questioner
expected that Lincoln would take a dire vengeance, but he
answered, "I will treat them as if they had never been away."
William Barclay, "The Gospel of Luke"
From the book "750 Engaging Illustrations"
In "Restoring Your Spiritual Passion," Gordon MacDonald writes:
One memory that burns deep within is that of a plane flight on
which I was headed toward a meeting that would determine a major
decision in my ministry. I knew I was in desperate need of a
spiritual passion that would provide wisdom and submission to
God's purposes. But the passion was missing because I was steeped
in resentment toward a colleague.
For days I had tried everything to rid myself of vindictive
thoughts toward that person. But, try as I might, I would even
wake in the night, thinking of ways to subtly get back at him. I
wanted to embarrass him for what he had done, to damage his
credibility before his peers. My resentment was beginning to
dominate me, and on that plane trip I came to a realization of
how bad things really were....
As the plane entered the landing pattern, I found myself crying
silently to God for power both to forgive and to experience
liberation from my poisoned spirit. Suddenly it was as if an
invisible knife cut a hole in my chest, and I literally felt a
thick substance oozing from within. Moments later I felt as if
I'd been flushed out. I'd lost negative spiritual weight, the
kind I needed to lose: I was free. I fairly bounced off that
plane and soon entered a meeting that did in fact change the
entire direction of my life.
Spiritual passion cannot coexist with resentments. The Scriptures
are clear. The unforgiving spirit saps the energy that causes
Christian growth and effectiveness.
Anger, Prayer, Resentment, Thoughts Matt. 6:12; Eph. 4:30-32
Richard Hoefler's book "Will Daylight Come?" includes a homey
illustration of how sin enslaves and forgiveness frees.
A little boy visiting his grandparents was given his first
slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his
As he came back to Grandma's backyard, he spied her pet duck. On
an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck
The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the
woodpile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had
seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day, Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the
But Sally said, "Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen
today. Didn't you, Johnny?" And she whispered to him, "Remember
the duck!" So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma
said, "I'm sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper." Sally
smiled and said, "That's all taken care of Johnny wants to do
it." Again she whispered, "Remember the duck." Johnny stayed
while Sally went fishing.
After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally's,
finally he couldn't stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he'd
killed the duck.
"I know, Johnny," she said, giving him a hug. "I was standing at
the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave
you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of
In an article in "Guideposts," Corrie ten Boom told of not being
able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had
forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so,
couldn't sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in
putting the problem to rest. She writes:
His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor to whom I
confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks. "Up in that
church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which
is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton
lets go of the rope the bell keeps on swinging. First 'ding,'
then 'dong.' Slower and slower until there's a final dung and it
stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we
forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we've been tugging
at our grievances for a long time, we mustn't be surprised if the
old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They're just the
ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down."
And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight
reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my
conversations. But the force - which was my willingness in the
matter - had gone out of them. They came less and less often and
at last stopped altogether. And so I discovered another secret of
forgiveness: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but
also above our thoughts.
In his book, "Lee: The Last Years," Charles Bracelen Flood
reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a
Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in
front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and
trunk had been destroyed by Federal Artillery fire. She looked to
Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with
After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and
It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow
them to remain, let bitterness take root, and poison the rest of
Senator Mark Hatfield recounts the following history:
James Garfield was a lay preacher and principal of his
denominational college. They say he was ambidextrous and could
simultaneously write Greek with one hand and Latin with the
other. In 1880, he was elected president of the United States,
but after only six months in office, he was shot in the back with
a revolver. He never lost consciousness. At the hospital, the
doctor probed the wound with his little finger to seek the
bullet. He couldn't find it, so he tried a silver-tipped probe.
Still he couldn't locate the bullet.
They took Garfield back to Washington, D.C. Despite the summer
heat, they tried to keep him comfortable. He was growing very
weak. Teams of doctors tried to locate the bullet, probing the
wound over and over. In desperation they asked Alexander Graham
Bell, who was working on a little device called the telephone, to
see if he could locate the metal inside the president's body. He
came, he sought, and he too failed.
The president hung on through July, through August, but in
September he finally died - not from the wound but from
infection. The repeated probing, which the physicians thought
would help the man, eventually killed him.
So it is with people who dwell too long on their sin and refuse
to release it to God.
Sin, Christ's Work
In 1982 would-be assassin John Hinckley shot President Ronald
Reagan. Reagan underwent surgery and recovered, and through the
entire ordeal Reagan's daughter Patti Davis saw God at work. In
"Angels Don't Die" she writes:
I give endless prayers of thanks to whatever angels circled my
father, because a Devastator bullet, which miraculously had not
exploded, was found a quarter inch from his heart, the following
day my father said he knew his physical healing was directly
dependent on his ability to forgive John Hinckley. By showing me
that forgiveness is the key to everything, including physical
health and healing, he gave me an example of Christ-like
The same grace of God that protects and heals us also calls us to
forgive those who hurt us the most.
Christlikeness, Grace, Mercy, Protection, Providence Matt. 6:12.
Jimmy Carter ran for president of the United States against
Ronald Reagan in 1980. According to David Wallis in the New York
Times Magazine, prior to a televised debate between the two
candidates, columnist George Will came upon Carter's debate notes
and sneaked them to the Reagan camp. Many pundits felt that
Reagan won that debate, and he went on to win the election.
Carter did not forget what George Will had done to him.
In a 1997 interview with Wallis, Carter said:
I was teaching forgiveness one day in Sunday school, and I tried
to go through my memory about people for whom I had a resentment.
George Will was one of those people, so I wrote him a note. I
asked myself, What do we have in common, and I had known that he
had written a book about baseball, which I had refused to read. I
went to a bookstore and found a remaindered copy. Paid a dollar
for it. So I wrote him a note and told him the facts: that I had
a feeling of resentment toward him, that I had found his book
delightful and I hoped that we would be permanently reconciled.
He wrote me back a nice, humorous note. He said his only regret
was that I didn't pay full price for his book.
Anyone can hold a grudge. It takes character to initiate
Grudges, Reconciliation, Resentment Matt. 5:23-26;18:15-35; Col.
In "Running on Empty," Jill Briscoe writes:
A woman I met at a conference told me how she was sexually abused
as a small child by her father. She grew up, overcame the
emotional damage that had been done, and eventually married a
missionary. Years later, after her children were fully grown, she
received a letter from her father telling her he had become a
Christian and had asked God for forgiveness and received it. He
had, moreover, realized he had sinned dreadfully against her, and
was writing to ask for her pardon.
Feelings she didn't know were there suddenly surfaced. It wasn't
fair! He should pay for what he had done, she thought bitterly.
It was all too easy. And now he was going to be part of the
family! She was sure her home church was busy killing the
fattened calf for him and that she would be invited to the party!
She was angry, resentful....
Then she had a dream. She saw her father standing on an empty
stage. Above him appeared the hands of God holding a white robe
of righteousness. She recognized it at once, for she was wearing
one just like it! As the robe began to descend toward her father,
she woke up crying out, "No! It isn't fair! What about me?"
The only way she could finally rejoice, as her heavenly Father
pleaded with her to do, was to realize that her earthly father
was now wearing the same robe that she was. They were the same in
God's sight. It had cost his Son's life to provide both those
robes. As she began to see her father clothed with the garments
of grace, she was able to begin to rejoice.
Bitterness, Family, Grace, Mercy, Righteousness, Sexual Abuse
Matt. 18:21-35; Luke 15:11-32.
In August 1995 a scene occurred in Burma, now called Myanmar,
that fifty years earlier no one could ever have imagined. It
happened at the bridge over the Kwai River. During World War 2
the Japanese army had forced Allied prisoners of war from
Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands to build a railroad. The
Japanese soldiers committed many atrocities, and some sixteen
thousand Allied POWs died building what has been called "Death
But after the war, a former Japanese army officer named Nagase
Takashi went on a personal campaign to urge his government to
admit the atrocities committed.
After many years of effort, the result of his crusade was a brief
ceremony in 1995 at the infamous bridge. On one side of the
bridge were fifty Japanese, including five war veterans, and Mr.
Takashi. Eighteen schoolteachers from Japan carried two hundred
letters written by children expressing sadness for what had
happened during the war.
At the other side of the bridge were representatives of Allied
soldiers: Two old soldiers from Britain who declared the business
of fifty years ago finished at last. A young woman from Australia
who came to deliver, posthumously, her father's forgiveness. A
son of a POW who came to do the same. And there was 73-yearold
Australian David Barrett, who said he made the pilgrimage because
he felt that to continue hating would destroy him.
The two groups began to walk the narrow planks of the black iron
bridge toward one another. When they met in the center, they
shook hands, embraced, shed tears. Yuko Ikebuchi, a
schoolteacher, handed the letters from the Japanese children to
the veterans, and in tears turned and ran without a word.
Forgiveness can transform the very place where atrocities have
occurred into something beautiful - a display of God's mercy.
Confession, Peacemakers, Reconciliation Matt. 5:9, 23-26;
SOME PEOPLE, MAYBE MOST OF US, HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH
RECONCILING GOD'S JUSTICE IN THIS LIFE, AND GOD'S GRANTED
MERCY IN AN AGE THAT IS TO COME.
WHEN GOD RULED ANCIENT ISRAEL HE HAD MANY LAWS FOR THEM
WHICH INCLUDED THE DEATH PENALTY FOR CERTAIN CRIMES, IF
THE INDIVIDUAL WAS NOT FULLY REPENTANT (DAVID WAS FULLY
REPENTANT OVER COMMITTING ADULTERY AND PLANNED MURDER
[PSA.51] AND SO WAS PARDONED FROM THE DEATH PENALTY, AS
WE SEE IN 2 SAMUEL 11 AND 12). YES UNDER THE LAWS OF GOD
FOR THIS PHYSICAL LIFE CERTAIN CRIMES SHOULD CARRY THE
DEATH PENALTY (WE HERE IN CANADA THINK WE ARE SO
MODERNLY MORAL THAT WE HAVE ABOLISHED THE DEATH PENALTY
FOR ALL AND EVERY CRIME).
WE CAN INDEED LOOK BACK ON HISTORY AND SEE MANY
HORRIBLE AND DISGUSTING SINS THAT HAVE BEEN DONE BY A
PERSON OR PERSONS - WE CAN THINK OF THE SINS OF HITLER
AND HIS CLONES DURING WORLD WAR 2.
THEN WE FIND IN GOD'S WORD THAT MOST PEOPLE FROM THE
TIME OF ADAM AND EVE, HAVE BEEN SPIRITUALLY BLINDED,
DECEIVED, LEFT TO THEIR OWN DARKENED MIND AND THE
INFLUENCE OF SATAN AND THE DEMONS. SOME IN SUCH A STATE
HAVE DONE GREAT AND HORRIFIC SINS UPON OTHER HUMAN
BEINGS. YET THERE WILL COME AN AGE CALLED "THE GREAT
WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT" - REVELATION 20 - A TIME WHEN
THE HUMANLY DECEIVED, GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY, WILL BE
RAISED TO PHYSICAL LIFE AGAIN, AND HAVE THE BIBLE OPENED
TO THEM, ALSO THE BOOK OF LIFE, AND BE GIVEN A CHANCE
TO REPENT AND FIND SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST JESUS.
YES HITLER, TO NAME ONE, WILL BE THERE IN THAT AGE,
AND YES HE WILL BE GRANTED SPIRITUAL SIGHT AND THE
OPPORTUNITY TO REPENT AND ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST AS HIS
PERSONAL SAVIOR, AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE FORGIVEN.
IT IS WRITTEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, THAT GOD WISHES,
DESIRES THAT NONE SHOULD PERISH BUT THAT ALL COME TO
REPENTANCE. IT IS HUMBLING AND ALSO MIND-BLOWING TO TRY
TO UNDERSTAND THE DEPTH, THE LOVE, THE CHARACTER OF THE
GOD OF THIS UNIVERSE, BEING WILLING TO EXTEND HIS HAND
OF FORGIVENESS TO ALL AND EVERYONE, INCLUDING PEOPLE LIKE
IT IS HARD SOMETIMES FOR THE PRESENT HUMAN MIND TO
UNDERSTAND THE DEPTHS OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD. WE TRY
EVEN IF AT TIMES WE LOOK THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, BUT
ONE DAY WE SHALL KNOW FULLY EVEN AS WE ARE KNOWN.
Keith Hunt - a day before the Great Feast of Tabernacles
To be continued