Matthew 18:21-35 (CEB)
21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.[a] 23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold.[b] 25 Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins.[c] He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’
29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.
31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.
35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
When Chris Carrier was 10 years old, he was abducted near his Florida home, taken into the swamps, stabbed repeatedly in the chest and abdomen with an ice pick, and then shot through the temple with a handgun. Remarkably, hours after being shot, he awoke with a headache, unable to see out of one eye. He stumbled to the highway and stopped a car, which took him to the hospital.
Years later, a police officer told Chris that the man suspected of his abduction lay close to death. "Confront him," suggested the officer. Chris did more than that. He comforted his attacker during the man's final weeks of life
Chris’ recollection of that encounter should challenge all of us:
When I first spoke to David, he was rather callous. I suppose he thought I was another police officer. A friend who had accompanied me wisely asked him a few simple questions that led to him admitting that he had abducted me. He then asked, “Did you ever wish you could tell that young boy that you were sorry for what you did?”
David answered empathetically, “I wish I could.”
That was when I introduced myself to him. Unable to see, he clasped my hand and told me he was sorry for what he had done to me. In return, I offered him my forgiveness and friendship.”
Chris meant what he said. He visited McAllister in the nursing home many more times, talking about both of their lives. Finally, one day, Chris got a chance to tell McAllister about the life-saving forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can offer. McAllister – in the presence of the one he’d tried to kill – bowed his heart to Christ.
Three weeks later, the elderly kidnapper and attempted murderer died. Forgiven.
Chris was doing something akin to what Christ did 2,000 years ago. Jesus willingly forgave and befriended those who had scorned Him the most and hurt Him the deepest. He has called every one of His disciples to do the same:
Chris Carrier's story isn't an anomaly. Forgiveness isn't just practiced by saints or martyrs, nor does it benefit only its recipients. Instead, studies are finding connections between forgiveness and physical, mental and spiritual health and evidence that it plays a key role in the health of families, communities and nations.
Prayer of Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
Pastor Michael Williams