Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 27
Have you noticed that real Christians are willing to forgive those who have hurt them.
Victor Hugo unforgettably illustrated kindness in his famous book, ‘Les Miserables.’ It is only fiction, but Victor Hugo understood the power of kindness and forgiveness and recognised that these qualities characterise the Christian’s life. The book is the story of Jean Valjean, whose only crime was the theft of a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children. After serving nineteen years in prison for his crime, he was released. Unable to find work because he had been a convict, he came to the home of a Christian bishop who kindly gave him some supper and a place to sleep. Yielding to temptation however, Valjean stole the bishop’s silver plates and slipped out into the night. But he was apprehended and brought back to the scene of the crime. The kind bishop did not want to prosecute the man, but wanted him to come to know the Lord, so told the officers he wanted Valjean to have the silver plates. Turning to the man, he said, “And Jean, you forgot to take the candlesticks.” The criminal was astounded and the kindness later resulted in his transformation, bringing a deep sense of joy to the compassionate bishop.
Victor Hugo understood that forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian message. Christians are forgiven sinners. God never forgave an excuse, but if we are honest about our sin, confess it to Him and ask Jesus to forgive us, He does. One mark of that is that we then find that we can forgive others when they ask us. We are people who have put our trust in Jesus to wash away all past wrong, and find there is a new willingness to forgive those who harm us. We read this in ‘the Lord’s Prayer’, where we pray, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’
In January 2003 Robin Oake, the Chief Constable of the Isle of Man, received a ’phone call to say that his son, Stephen, a Detective Constable with Special Branch, whilst on an anti-terror raid in Manchester had been murdered by an al-Qaeda. Later he stunned a press conference by speaking of his willingness to forgive his son’s murderer. He later reflected, “I did mean it: I do mean it and I actually pray for the man who was convicted of Steve’s killing every day, every morning when I get up.” The killer, Kamel Bourgass, an Algerian has been jailed for life. Robin says that he believes forgiveness is possible in every situation of life where someone has been hurt or accused. He says, “It’s taken from us the bitterness and the anger that we might have had and we might still have … we’ve been healed from that.” (Robin Oake ‘Father Forgive’ published by Authentic Media in 2008)
God is a forgiving God, who gives the strength and ability to Christians so that they, in turn, can forgive others, as they have been forgiven.
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