January 17, 1995
The headline said: FATHER OFFICIATES AT THE WEDDING OF HIS SON’S KILLER.
According to the news item, Rev. Walter Everett forgave the man who murdered his son. The younger Everett was shot after a misunderstanding and physical struggle. His death was another senseless tragedy.
In the mind of the murderer, the forgiveness from his victim’s father must seem even more senseless. He says he does not fully understand how or why this father could do it. After what he had done, revenge and hatred seem far more natural. But it was good news.
Everett’s wife could not understand her husband either. How could he forgive their son’s killer? She was so distressed that, after 34 years of marriage, she walked out.
I’ve occasionally struggled to forgive people who have wronged me. In one situation, I was willing to do it and even offered it, but the other person seemed to have no desire to be forgiven or even admit wrong had been done. Up until that time, I believed forgiveness was complete only if it was received. I also thought forgiveness would restore broken relationships. However, the other person did not want restoration and even met my attempt with further betrayal and hurt. It seemed clear forgiveness would not change anything. Why then should I forgive? Even though the Bible says I must do it, it did not make sense.
Then I read from Isaiah 48 God’s words to His people: “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger... For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”
From this I learned another aspect of forgiveness important to my own situation. God Himself forgives because it is not like God to be unforgiving. His very nature is to be compassionate, kind and generous. If people are not willing to receive His kindness, it becomes a blotch on their name, not on God’s character.
Forgiveness, in this one case particularly, was for me. As a child of God, my Father did not want me to hold unforgiveness in my heart. It would be foreign to godliness and contrary to the Christlikeness to which He has called me. The person who hurt me may never receive my offer, but by forgiving that person, I am acting as God intends.
When I did it, I was set free from anger, from the nagging desire for revenge, and therefore from all possibility of bitterness. My own spirit became soft and settled. My relationship with God grew sweeter. Clearly, forgiveness is profitable for me.
The Psalmist prayed, “For the sake of your name, O LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” and “Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.”
Asking for forgiveness on the basis of God’s name and His character is clarified further when we consider His forgiveness. His Son was also murdered by people who misunderstood His actions and struggled with accepting His claims. Crucifying the sinless Jesus was a brutal and totally senseless act. Yet, by that act, God was able to forgive not only those who killed His Son, but all sinners and all sins ever committed by every person. His forgiveness brings restoration between sinful people (who accept it) and a Holy God.
Does that make sense? Without faith, it is illogical. God dying on a cross so He could forgive us? That is senseless — but it is also good news!