Forgiveness: The prisoner it really frees is you

By Ted Turner Jr.

I truly believe that this world would be a much better place to live if people could just forgive one another. Most people don’t realize the life changing awesome power that lies in the word forgiveness. One of my favorite songs is “Forgiveness” by Christian recording artist Matthew West. The lyrics to it describe perfectly what forgiveness means and what it can do:

It’s the hardest thing to give away, And the last thing on your mind today, It always goes to those who don’t deserve; It’s the opposite of how you feel, When the pain they caused is just too real It takes everything you have just to say the word… Forgiveness.

It flies in the face of all your pride, It moves away the mad inside, It’s always anger’s own worst enemy; Even when the jury and the judge, Say you gotta right to hold a grudge, It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’… Forgiveness.

It’ll clear the bitterness away, It can even set a prisoner free, There is no end to what it’s power can do; So, let it go and be amazed, By what you see through eyes of grace, The prisoner that it really frees is you… Forgiveness

The Bible speaks to us about the power of forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul teaches that the Christian’s walk with the Lord has to include forgiveness. He says,” Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Paul calls us to let go of all bitterness, rage, anger, fighting, and ill-will that we have for others. The only way is by extending forgiveness to others the same way God extends forgiveness to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Friends if anyone had good reason to be angry, bitter, hold a grudge, or seek revenge it was Jesus. Jesus was perfect without sin. Yet he was rejected by the people in his own home town. Judas, one of his own betrayed him. All his closest followers deserted him in his greatest hour of need. Peter denied him three times. He suffered injustice when Pilate seeing no fault in him had him scourged beyond all recognition. A crowd of his own people yelled crucify him. The thief on the cross mocked him. He was forsaken by God the Father as he took the sins of the world upon himself. And after all that; His last words were, ”Father forgive them.” I am so sorry that my Savior had to go through that because of me. Jesus gave his life to extend grace and forgiveness to us.

Matthew West was inspired to write his song after hearing this powerful story of forgiveness from a mother named Renee. On May 11, 2002, Renee’s 20-year-old daughter Megan and her best friend were both killed by a 24-year-old drunk driver named Eric. When Eric was sentenced to 22 years in prison Renee believed that would give her closure; but she found herself in the darkest place she had ever been in, still consumed by bitterness, anger, and hatred for her daughter’s killer. Even though he was behind bars, she felt like the prisoner. So she reached out and did the impossible, she visited Eric in jail and she forgave him. His life was changed forever. He said, “I couldn’t forgive myself but she forgave me.” The whole family eventually forgave him and today he is described as part of their family even treated as a son. Renee didn’t stop there, she went to court before the judge with the whole family and had Eric’s sentence cut in half from 22 to 11 years. Now they travel the country speaking about the danger of drunk driving and the power of forgiveness. Renee says you have to forgive if you want to heal.

There are life defining questions that revolve around forgiveness that we must answer.

Is there somebody I need to forgive? Holding a grudge that is weighing you down then set it free.

Is there someone I need to ask forgiveness from? Humbling self, go to that person and say you are sorry with no excuses and ask can we start over. Can I ever forgive myself? Maybe loving the unlovable means learning to love the person you see in the mirror. Sometimes that’s not an easy task. All this leads to the most significant forgiveness question of all: Have I ever really let it sink in the message of God’s forgiveness & what he has done for me thru his son Jesus dying on a cross for my sins.

Renee and her family stood before a judge speaking on behalf of a guilty criminal and seeking mercy for him. I am reminded of someone that has done that for me and for you. His name is Jesus. Romans 5:8 says, “For God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Why did he do that? So we could discover the healing, victory, redemption, power, and freedom of one little word “FORGIVENESS.”

Friends initiate forgiveness, be the first to step in & say I wish it was not so between us. What can I do, what can we do to make it right. Forgiveness is not saying what was done wasn’t wrong or it was ok, but to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was really you.

This is my prayer for each of you today: “Forgiveness is hard to live out so God show me how to love the unlovable, reach the unreachable, do the impossible. I want to finally set it free, show me how to see what your mercy sees, help me now to give what you gave to me. Forgiveness”

Ted Turner Jr. is pastor at Shelton Church of the Brethren

By Ted Turner Jr.

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