Posted 8/28/04

The Miracle of Forgiveness
By D. B. Martin

In a small cemetery somewhere in New York State, there is a gravestone containing one word, FORGIVEN. --. Profound! What else matters without forgiveness?

Prison warden Kenyon J. Scudder loves to tell a true story illustrating forgiveness. He got the story from a friend who happened to be sitting on the train next to a very depressed young man. Finally, the young man revealed he was an ex-convict returning home from a distant prison. His imprisonment had brought shame to his family. They had neither visited him nor written during his prison term. He hoped that this was because they were too poor to travel and too busy to write. However, he hoped, despite the evidence to the contrary, that they had or would forgive him.

When he was released he had written to tell them he wanted to come home. If they had forgiven him and would welcome him home, they were to put a white ribbon in the big apple tree where the train passed their little farm. He had decided that if the white ribbon was not on the apple tree, he would stay on the train, go west and probably become a hobo.

As the train neared his home the suspense became too great for him to look. He asked his new friend to watch for the big apple tree. They changed places. Suddenly his friend saw it. “There it is,” he whispered, his eyes bright with tears. “It’s all right. The whole tree is white with ribbons.”

The friend went on to relate to Scudder, “In that instant, all the bitterness that had poisoned that young man’s life for so many years was dispelled. I felt as if I had witnessed a miracle …the miracle of forgiveness!” (Paraphrased from Readers’ Digest, March ’61, pp. 41-42).

The Bible speaks much of forgiveness. King David said, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).

Many Bible commentators believe David wrote this Psalm some time after his sin with Bathsheba, recorded in 2 Samuel 11. In Psalm 32:3-4, he describes the misery of bearing secret guilt, including insomnia, depression, etc. Then in verse 5b he says, “… ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”(vs. 5b). David amplifies his repentance and forgiveness in Psalm 51.

Everyone struggles with being forgiven and forgiving others. In fact, many who believe in Jesus and faithfully attend church fail in this area. It’s hard to admit we are wrong and apologize. It’s even harder to forgive others. This is particularly difficult with relatives and brothers and sisters in our church.

After completing my first twenty years as a pastor I concluded that forgiveness was the most significant problem I encountered in churches I served. Of course, I knew we needed to maintain our forgiveness by God. Less obvious, however, was our need to forgive others and be forgiven by them. Sadly, I watched failure to forgive others disrupt fellowship, hinder worship, prevent evangelism and stifle missions. I saw failure to forgive destroy homes, even active Christian homes. I learned from doctors that it caused or aggravated major health problems such as heart disease, strokes, ulcers and chronic depression.

I needed more light on this than my college and seminary had provided. That’s why I went back for postgraduate work, particularly seeking help in the area of forgiveness. In fact, my doctoral dissertation subject was FORGIVING OTHERS (Luther Rice Seminary –1981).

Now, after more than 50 years in the ministry, I am more convinced than ever that our personal forgiveness and forgiving others is still our greatest need. Watch for the following articles to come: How To Apologize, Confronting An Offender in Love, Rebuilding Broken Relationships, Can I Forgive and Forget, and Should I Forgive Myself? So stay tuned!

Jesus died on the cross for our sins so that we could be forgiven and forgive others. Both are miraculous gifts of His grace. Let Jesus help you experience the miracle of forgiveness! Amen.

© 2004 D. B. Martin.

To view previous Maranathalerts, see the Maranathalert Archives.

Note: “Maranatha” means, “Behold He Is Coming,” an early Christian greeting. “Alert,” reminds us to be ready. Blessings in Jesus! D.B.

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