Another Forgiveness Footnote

Many years ago I read a story in Readers’ Digest about a drunk driver who took the life of a young man on Christmas Eve in rural Tennessee. The driver, “Tommy,” was sent to jail for his crime, and the story was about how the parents of the victim made peace with it all.

The couple, Frank and Elizabeth, were Christians, who knew they must forgive, but who obviously struggled with their rage and hurt, and wondered how to go on with their lives.

Eventually, they reached out to the young man, visited him in prison, more or less adopted him, and began treating him as their own son. He came to faith, and when he was released, Frank actually baptized his son’s killer.

Seventeen years later, as I was preparing a message on forgiveness, I found that yellowed article in my file, and used the information in it to contact the church where much of this had happened. I wanted to hear the rest of the story.

The wife of one of the elders answered the phone and my question. “Can you tell me how the story ends?” In a sweet, southern drawl, she said, “Really goooood.”

It turned out that the young man was still walking with the Lord, was a member of the church, was gainfully employed, and had a wife and children. He had maintained not only his sobriety, but his relationship with his “adoptive parents.”

But when she began to tell me the story, her first sentence was, “Tommy obeyed the Gospel.” Here is a woman who knows her theology well enough to know that the Gospel is not something you merely believe, but something you obey. The New Testament uses similar terms in Romans 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17.

But Tommy wasn’t the only one who obeyed the Gospel. Frank and Elizabeth, the parents of the dead son, obeyed the Gospel as well.

The Gospel is the good news that sinners can find forgiveness because God is a forgiver, and sent His own Son to die for the very people who killed Him. God does not deny sin, excuse sin, or passively accept the evil in the world. God’s answer for the sins committed against Him was the Cross.

Now, God wants the Cross to be our answer for the sins committed against us. Someone has said that “forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it.” Forgiveness is the grace which has healed us, overflowing to others.

This story, to a cynical world, sounds just too good to be true. But it is true, and is merely an example of the Gospel’s power to change lives. Just as God sent His Son to die for us while we were still His enemies, we, too, can forgive, and even make friends of our enemies, by His grace.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Matthew 5:44, 45

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