Finding the Strength to Forgive

Free Bible Study Materials for Christian Discipleship
 May 2015

photo courtesy of Never Cool in School

Dear fellow disciple-maker,

Where Do We Find the Strength to Forgive?

In his book, In the Grip of Grace, Max Lucado tells the story of a 17 year-old boy named Kevin Tunell. On January 1, 1982, Kevin hit and killed 18 year-old Susan Herzog. The case went to Juvenile Court where Kevin was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving. After serving his sentence, Kevin spent seven years campaigning against drunken driving – six years more than the court required.

$1.00 Each Friday

The victim's family sued him for $1.5 million, but settled for $936. This settlement was to be paid back $1.00 each Friday, for 936 weeks – from 1982 to 2000 – eighteen years (the age of their daughter). If Kevin forgot to pay, and sometimes he did, the family took him to court for failure to comply. Kevin was willing to pay an extra year's worth, if he could have permission to write out one check. The victim's family said, "No." Quoting the mother, "We want to receive the check every week on time. He must understand that we are going to pursue this until August of the year 2000. We will go back to court every month if we have to."

Max Lucado writes, "Few would question the anger of the family, but I do have one concern. Are 936 payments enough for the family to demand? When they receive the final payment, will they be at peace? Is eighteen years of restitution sufficient? How much is enough?"

Who Has the Strength to Forgive?

Forgiveness is not cancelling the consequences of another person's actions, nor is it forgetting what they did. Forgiving is refusing to hold it against them. Forgiving is choosing to stop keeping score. But who has the strength? Followers of Jesus have found the strength through the presence of God's Spirit. Without God's help, the natural human tendency is always to look for a creative way to make the other person pay.

photo courtesy of ian burt

In Acts 7, Stephen, the first martyr of the early church, asked Jesus to forgive those who were stoning him.  The Bible reveals that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, while they were stoning him, Stephen looked up to heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Undoubtedly, seeing Jesus gave Stephen the strength to forgive. His final words on earth were, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (Acts 7:60).

Free at Last

Can you see the face of someone Jesus wants you to forgive? Grace is treating people better than they deserve. While hanging on the cross, Jesus forgave his murderers on the spot. This fact confirms that he understands the pain we feel. It's time to ask Jesus to help you forgive. Nothing would please him more. If you are not asking Jesus to help you forgive, it doesn't mean you're not a Christian. But when you do, Jesus sets you free and others can see it by the look on your face. In the words of Max Lucado, "Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing that you were the prisoner."

Author:Paul Schlieker

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