Many say God’s word isn’t relevant today so therefore we can’t use it as an absolute in telling us how to live. I wish they would read it. They’d find out differently. It matches so closely with our society that you would think it was written for today.
The events, falling over 100 feet at 120 mph from the face of a cliff, on July 21, 2002 took a big emotional toll on Craig and Steve. Both have relived the fall in their minds countless times. Steve still chokes up when admitting that the accident has been “trying on a bunch of different levels.” He has had to deal with his own feelings of guilt, as well as the pain of watching a good friend suffer. But instead of blaming Steve, Craig credits him for saving his life.
Now, place yourself in Craig’s situation. Do you think you’d harbor any anger or resentment at your climbing partner? After all, you trusted him to belay you, but he let you fall. If he had just kept the rope attached, or made sure he heard what you said, you wouldn’t be lying here in this hospital bed scared of what the future has in store for you.
But you see, that’s how Satan would have you think. That’s how our society would have you think because Satan is ruler of this world.
How many times have you heard in the media this question, “This person really hurt you so how do you feel about him/her? What do you want to see happen to him/her?” And if the interviewee doesn’t respond with the anger and revenge desired, the media questions his motives and tries with other forms of questions to get him to express some form of hate and revenge.
Satan wants nothing more than for you and me to focus on all the pain, the grief, and the struggles. He points a finger to the one who has caused all this heartache for you and your family. He wants this person to be in the spotlight – like a close-up shot on a video camera. He wants you to become angry. He wants you to blame this person for all your struggles. He wants you to believe that anger and revengewill bring contentment and peace to your soul.
But that’s totally wrong. If you want a soul that has peace, that is completely satisfied, then don’t blame someone else for all your problems.
So what about Steve? What must it have been like for Steve to hear from his buddy that the fall was an accident and that his buddy was not mad at him? After all, Steve had extreme guilt for the pain he had caused his friend.
Let’s be real, unless our hearts are as cold as ice, we would feel the same way. We would have a hard time, an extremely difficult time, forgiving ourselves. We’d always be wondering how we could ever make this wrong – right again.
So what impact do you think Craig’s forgiving attitude has had on Steve? On Steve’s relationship with other people? On Steve’s relationship with God? I really believe that if Craig doesn’t forgive Steve, the guilt would eat away at Steve until he could no longer function as a respectable, descent human being. Steve still is emotionally attached to the event – the tears and choked up voice we saw in his testimony. There’s no question: the guilt would wear him out physically, and he would never find peace of heart and mind. This catastrophe would haunt him the rest of his life.
But that’s the beauty of forgiveness. It not only released Craig from anger and hatred that would have kept him from mental, physical, and spiritual healing. It also released Steve from the pain and torment that goes along with the guilt of hurting someone else – the guilt that comes when you and I sin toward God.
So always keep in mind that: Forgiveness brings healing to both partiesinvolved.
King David shares a testimony with us in Psalm 32. It took him a while, but he realized what failing to acknowledge and confess sins in his life were doing to him. Allow me to paraphrase verses 3 through 5.
· Verse 3 – When I held onto my sin (which we can only guess what it was) my body began wasting away because of the burden and guilt of my unconfessed sin.
· Verse 4 – Day and night, God kept reminding me of my sin and it began to wear me down to the point of exhaustion.
· Verse 5 – Finally, when I acknowledged my sin before God and tried to hide it no longer, He forgave the guilt of my sin.
Listen to what Christ said about an unmerciful servant in the Gospel of Matthew. He said, there was a servant whom was brought before the King to settle his account. He owed the king millions of dollars. The servant didn’t have this kind of money so the king declared he would take the servant’s wife, children, and possessions and sell them to repay the debt. (I know some of you men right now might be thinking that sounds pretty good, but STOP! You’re going to miss the point.) The servant fell to his knees begging and pleading that the king would give him more time to pay off the debt. The king took pity on the servant and cancelled all of his debt. (Man wouldn’t that be nice if our Mortgage Companies forgave us our loans?)
But here’s the point Christ want us to see. The same servant left the King’s throne and went head hunting. He found his buddy who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed his buddy by the throat and began choking him, demanding that he pay back the few bucks. His buddy finally frees himself from the choke hold and falls to the floor gasping for air. When he finally gets his composure, he begs the servant to give him more time to pay off the debt.
Well, what did the servant do at this point? Was it: A) Did he remember what the king had generously done for him and likewise do the same for his buddy? Or B) Did he continue in his fit of rage and have his buddy thrown into prison until the debt could be paid? If you answered B, you are correct and the prize is: the satisfaction of knowing your Bible.
But the story doesn’t end here. There were some tattletales, other servants, who went and told the king all they had seen. The king was distressed by the news and called the servant back to his throne. The king scolded the servant, reminding him of all his debt that had been canceled because of his begging and pleading. He asked the servant, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your buddy just as I had on you?”
The king didn’t wait for an answer. He quickly had the servant thrown into prison where he would be tortured until he could pay back the millions of dollars he owed (which in reality meant never and scripturally meant the judgment of hell).
Christ concludes the story with these words, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
He also tells us these words in Matthew 6:14-15, right after he taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Those aren’t my words. Those are Christ’s. And I think He knows something about God that a lot of people don’t want to admit or accept – God will not accept us failing to forgive the person who hurts us, even in the most criminal way.
God says to you and me in my words, “I put up with your misfortunes and sins against me all the time. I grant you grace and mercy constantly. I forgive you. But, I will not accept you failing to do the same for those who sin against you. I want you to show the same grace and mercy to others as I have shown to you.”
Wow! Those are tough words, but they’re the truth as given to us in the Bible.
So if Craig does what Satan would want him to do – to blame Steve and never forgive him – Craig will not find peace, his own sins won’t be forgiven, and his body probably won’t heal because of all the resentment he would be harboring for Steve. His focus would be on Steve and not on what he would need to do to help his body heal.
But if we go back to David’s testimony in Psalm 32, we see what happens when sin is no longer covered up and hidden from God. (Yea, be real – like we can ever hide our sin from God!)
Listen to David’s joy that resounds in his words because he has been released from this burden of guilt that surrounded him while he tried to hold onto his sin.
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him, and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2)
Forgiveness is not solely for the benefit of the other person, though it sure did help Steve to know that Craig had forgiven him. Instead, forgiveness also benefits you and me. Forgiveness brings about healing. Forgiveness releases us from the guilt of our mistakes. Forgiveness brings us peace of heart, mind, and soul, and allows us to function as God intended.
And the best thing about forgiveness is that it gives back to us the life we want.