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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

The newspaper headline shouted, in capital letters, ‘I FORGIVE YOU’. The Calgary Sun article then detailed how a man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a 10-year-old homicide that could only be described as horrifying.

Sadly, during the trial the victim’s mother had to see photos of the badly injured, lifeless body and hear how her son was beaten to death.

Then it was her turn to speak and that’s when we understand the eye-popping headline. The mother, Linda Levesque, told the court she was still grieving over the brutal crime and all that her son suffered before dying.

Then Linda dropped this bomb: “Because of this powerful gift, I have come to forgive those who took our Daniel. I pray that this forgiveness will free your heart to know our Heavenly Father’s mercy, love and healing.”

What was the gift Linda spoke about? The Sun article only said it was her “faith”. I’m having no trouble reading between the lines and understanding it was her faith in Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God.

A Sun columnist, who covered the trial, pretty much confirmed it by referring to Linda’s “faith in God”. He went on to write “the fact she has been able to come to terms with such a devastating event and … forgive those responsible is truly remarkable.”

Yes, it’s remarkable. It’s also a sign of someone who understands what it means to follow Jesus. Linda knows that while she’s never taken a life, she (like you, me and the rest of humanity) is far from perfect.

According to the Bible, all the wrong things that people like you and me have done, and all the right things we’ve failed to do, will be exposed when this life ends and we stand before the perfect Creator of time, space and the universe.

We’ll have to somehow explain away all these sins; I can tell you right now that I would not do well in that situation. Would you?

Orthodox Christianity says that God sought to maintain His perfect standards while still enabling people to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. The way He did that was to have His Son pay for all those wrong things by dying on a Roman Empire cross.

Three days later, God brought Jesus back to life to tell anyone who follows Jesus that their sins are gone, they’re as perfect as Jesus and we’ll see Him face-to-face when this life ends.

Linda Levesque must have understood this and recognized that since she’s been forgiven much, she needs to show the same level of forgiveness. And she did.

There are other instances of Christians forgiving acts of sickening violence (Google “Amish-Pennsylvania shooting-forgiveness”; it’s an incredible story). Each example shows how following Jesus Christ can free us from soul-destroying pain and bitterness, no matter how big or small the wrong that’s been done. Does this sound like something you want to get in on? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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ForgivenessWhen I talk about spirituality with people, the conversation train often runs smack into a wall when the notion of forgiveness comes up.

It seems that, unless you’re referring to Criminal Code convictions, many folks don’t think they need to ask anyone, God included, for forgiveness.

“What have I done wrong that needs forgiving?” seems to be the prevailing point of view. “I’ve never broken any major laws. I’ve never robbed or beaten up anyone. Asking forgiveness is for people who’ve done bad stuff. Not for me.”

Well, I guess that depends on your point of view. And for many of us, me included, our viewpoint is often shaped by the world in which we live. Even though we often don’t realize it.

A quick example? Downloading music without paying for it. People do it all the time, including church-going Christians. The rationale, technically speaking, is it’s not illegal and everyone’s doing it. So what’s the problem?

Well, having an affair on your significant other isn’t illegal, either. But would any of us ever figure it’s OK – even if they had an affair on us first?

As a person of faith, I know there are all kinds of things I’ve done and not done that require forgiveness. I ignore my wife or, conversely, overreact to something she’s said or done and become unreasonably upset. I don’t maintain steady contact with my brothers – neither do they, with me or each other, but that’s not the point, is it?

I can’t control others, but I can try to control myself. And when the inevitable happens and I fail to control myself adequately, I can turn to God for forgiveness and help. And, thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus (whom serious Christians believe is the Son of God), forgiveness of ALL sins is possible for ALL people (in fact, read this for an example of incredible forgiveness: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K).

Why do I need forgiveness from God when it appears my poor actions weren’t against him? Because He knows my potential; in fact, He put that potential in me (and you). And, more than anyone else (me included), He knows when and why I fall short.

I know this because a passage in the Bible states it plainly: “You formed the way I think and feel. You put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you made me in such a wonderful way. I know how amazing that was!

For me, acknowledging the necessity for forgiveness, from people around me AND from God, is an important step in humility. It doesn’t mean I’m a wretched person, it just means I’m a work in progress. Are you? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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13+-+1-1

Actress Keira Knightley has earned adulation for the great movies she’s done since coming to fame in 2002 with Bend It Like Beckham. But do her thoughts on atheism and faith reflect reality?

I’m sure some folks agree with her. But for serious Christians, forgiveness and guilt simply don’t work that way.

For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, life isn’t a game where you do whatever you want, then sleepwalk through a hollow ritual of asking for forgiveness and assume God is a kindly, but dimwitted dolt who can’t see through your deception.

Judging by her comments, Keira probably doesn’t give the Bible much credibility. But if you’re more open-minded, consider this except, from a section called ‘Psalms’:

You [God] know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts from far away. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. Lord, you know what I want to say, even before the words leave my mouth.

Does this sound like a creator Keira Knightley or anyone else can trick?

Forgiveness is available to everyone who accepts the gift God offers the world: Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians (and many others) believe is His son. According to the Bible, Jesus died to make up for the wrong things we’ve done and the right things we’ve failed to do.

What Jesus did is a big deal. And those who truly accept that gift and make Jesus their lord and savior understand that. So they don’t treat it with contempt. In fact, one of the Bible writers, a missionary named Paul who helped spread Christianity through the Mediterranean, addressed this very notion:

So, do you think we should continue sinning so that God will give us even more forgiveness? No! We died to our old sinful lives, so how can we continue living with sin?

Now, what about Keira’s assertion of living with guilt? If you’re still with me, you may have figured out by now that forgiveness is real and important and all-encompassing. In fact, for some people, it’s a life-changer and you can read one example here: http://wp.me/p2wzRb-6K

Forgiveness also means you’re no longer guilty. If you follow Jesus and sincerely ask for forgiveness, you’ll get it and the wrong you’ve done is wiped from the books. So there’s no need to “live with guilt”, as Keira puts it.

Does this make sense? Yes or no, post your comments below and let’s have a conversation.

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DavidBerkowitzIf you’re over 40, you might get a chill as I resurrect a shadowy name from the 1970s: Son of Sam.

This was the nickname David Berkowitz gave himself as he terrorized New York City, killing six people and wounding seven in 1976-77. In prison since then, he claimed during his trial that he was under the influence of a demon who possessed his neighbour’s dog.

Berkowitz was in the news not too long ago, responding to a 2011 Fox News reporter’s inquiry to reveal he would no longer seek parole because his Christian faith has already made him free.

“I am not saying this jokingly,” he wrote. “Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me, and I believe this. He has given me a whole new life, which I do not deserve. I am forever grateful for such forgiveness.”

Before you begin protesting, Berkowitz has expressed remorse for his crimes, dating back to 2007 when he issued an apology on his website. He expressed remorse again in his Fox News letter, writing “I have deep regret and sorrow over my past criminal actions.”

But that’s not the point of this essay. The point is more controversial. Has the Son of Sam been forgiven by Jesus Christ? Has he been given “a whole new life”?

The answer, if Berkowitz is sincere, is YES. If he came to believe that Jesus died to pay for his crimes, and as a result asked for the forgiveness Jesus made available to every person on this planet, then YES. If he’s committed himself to following Jesus, then YES.

Isn’t this outrageous? That’s the scandal of God’s grace (unmerited favour) through Jesus. It isn’t just available to you and I for those times we exceeded the speed limit or lied to our supervisors or paid for some service under the table. It’s available for everything. For everyone, including the Son of Sam.

Our culture may not consider this a good thing. But it is. In fact, I regard this grace as one of the things that most separates Christianity from other faiths. And it is based on a complete lack of what some cultures call a “caste” system that ranks people’s value.

When Paul, one of the earliest Christian missionaries, wrote in the Bible that “all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,” he didn’t include a footnote that singled out some people or groups as having sinned more (or less). That statement is the great equalizer for all humanity. See? No caste system.

So, if you’re carrying around something that pesters you like a persistent backache, do what David Berkowitz has done: place your trust in Jesus, ask for forgiveness with complete sincerity, then receive it. And believe it, because that forgiveness is as real and enduring as death, taxes, and annoying reality TV shows.

Even if you’re not burdened with guilt, give some consideration to this Christian faith that goes beyond our wavering ability to forgive. It provides permanent grace, an extraordinary gift to a broken world.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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