General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley: “I never forgive and I never forget.” To which Wesley replied: “Then, sir, I hope that you never sin.”
In my last two posts I wrote about what Jesus said about forgiveness in Matthew 18. Peter asked Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother, seven times?" (Verse 21). And Jesus answered, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Then, as He often did, Jesus told a story. At the end of this parable of the unmerciful servant Jesus says, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?”
Forgiveness is not always easy. But those of us who call ourselves disciples of Jesus, it is necessary. As C.S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Here is another forgiveness story:
It was five days before Christmas when a stranger approached ten-year-old Christopher Carrier, claiming to be a friend of his father. "I want to buy him a gift, and I need your help," said the stranger. Eager to do something good for his dad, Chris climbed aboard a motor home parked up the street.
The driver took Chris to a remote field, claiming to be lost, and asked Chris to look at a map. Suddenly Chris felt a sharp pain in his back. The stranger had stabbed him with an ice pick. The man drove the wounded boy down a dirt road, shot him in the left temple, and left him for dead in the alligator-infested Florida Everglades.
Chris lay wounded for six days until a driver found him. Chris miraculously survived his injuries, though he was blind in his left eye. Because he was unable to identify his attacker, police could not make an arrest. For a long time young Chris remained frightened, despite police protection. Finally at an invitation given after a church hayride, Chris trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior. He recalls, "I was overwhelmed with emotion; because I knew I had never really accepted and personally met the Savior." This turning point in Chris’s life came three years after the attack. At age 15 Chris shared his story for the first time. He eventually decided to pursue full-time ministry, helping others find the peace he had discovered in Christ.
Over twenty years later on September 3, 1996 a detective told Chris over the phone that a man had confessed to the crime that had cost him his left eye. The man’s name was David McAllister. Chris made plans to visit the feeble and now blind man, living in a nursing home. The strong young man Chris remembered was now a broken, humbled 77-year-old.
Chris learned from the detective some of the background of what had happened years ago. McAllister had been hired by Chris’s father to work as a nurse for an ailing uncle. Chris’s dad had caught McAllister drinking on the job and had fired him. The senseless attack on Chris had been motivated by revenge.
As Chris now talked to the old man, at first McAllister denied knowing anything about the kidnapping. As Chris revealed more about himself, the old man softened and eventually apologized. Chris said, "I told him, ’What you meant for evil, God has turned into a wonderful blessing.’" Chris told his attacker how God had allowed his wounds to become open doors to share the good news of Christ.
Chris went home and told his wife and kids about meeting the man who had tried to kill him. The entire family began almost daily visits to McAllister’s nursing home. During one Sunday afternoon visit, Chris popped the most important question he had yet asked McAllister: "Do you want to know the Lord?" McAllister said yes. Both men basked in forgiveness as McAllister gave his heart to Christ. A few days later McAllister died, peacefully, in his sleep.
Carrier says it is not a story of regret, but of redemption. "I saw the Lord give that man back his life, and so much more," Chris said. "I can’t wait to see him again someday; in heaven." (Citation: Adapted from article by Adam Myrick in the Southwestern News (Fall 2000))
You can read more of Chris' story at:The Baptist Standard.
Do you have a forgiveness story?