Sermon illustrations


Bitterness only Hurts Ourselves

When we are bitter, we delude ourselves into thinking that those who hurt us are more likely to be punished as long as we are set on revenge. We are afraid to let go of those feelings. After all, if we don’t make plans to see that justice is done, how will justice be done? We make ourselves believe that it is up to us to keep the offense alive.

This is a lie-the devil’s lie. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: `It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). We only hurt ourselves when we dwell on what has happened to us and fantasize about what it will be like when “they” get punished.

R. T. Kendall. Total Forgiveness, Charisma House Publishing.

“Chancing One’s Arm”

In her book Family Ministry, Diana Garland relates the following account by R.L. Honeycutt on the origin of the Irish expression “Chancing one’s arm”:

On display in St. Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin hangs an ancient door with a rough hewn, rectangular opening hacked in the center. The story of this “door of reconciliation” and the related Irish expression of “chancing one’s arm” are remarkable and instructive.

In 1492, two prominent Irish families, the Ormond’s and Kildare’s, were in the midst of a bitter feud. Besieged by Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, Sir James Butler, Earl of Ormond, and his followers took refuge in the chapter house of St. Patrick’s cathedral, bolting themselves in.

As the siege wore on, the Earl of Kildare concluded the feuding was foolish. Here were two families worshiping the same God, in the same church, living in the same country, trying to kill each other. So he called out to Sir James and, as an inscription in St. Patrick’s says today, “undertoake on his honour that he should receive no villanie.”

Afraid of “some further treachery,” Ormond did not respond. So Kildare seized his spear, cut a hole in the door, and thrust his hand through. It was grasped by another hand inside the church. The door was opened and the two men embraced, thus ending the family feud. From Kildare’s noble gesture came the expression “chancing one’s arm.”

Submitted by Chris Stroup, Taken from Diana Garland, Family Ministry (InterVarsity Press, 1999), p.358.

“Dear Paco,”

Ernest Hemingway grasped some of the difficulty that characterizes relationships between fathers and sons in his short story, The Capital of the World. The story revolves around a father and his teenage son Paco, set in Spain. Paco was an extremely common name in the Spain of that time. With desires to become a matador and to escape his father’s control, Paco runs away to the capital (from which the title is derived) of Spain, Madrid.  His father, desperate to reconcile with his son, follows him to Madrid and puts an ad in a local newspaper with a simple phrase:

“Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.”

Hemingway then writes, “the next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 “Pacos” all seeking forgiveness.”

The world is full of people in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. The model for such forgiveness is most profoundly found in Jesus Christ.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Debt Must Be Paid

Mercy goes beyond justice, it does not undercut it. If I forgive you the hundred dollar debt you owe me, that means I must use one hundred dollars of my own money to pay my creditors. I cannot really make you a hundred dollars richer without making myself hundred dollars poorer. If the debt is objectively real, it must be paid, and if it is my mercy that repays your debt, I must pay it. That is the reason why Christ had to die, why God could not simply say ‘forget it’. Instead he said ‘forgive it’ and meant that if we did not pay it, he had himself.

Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue. San Francisco, Ignatius Press. 1992, p.113f.

The Difference Between Forgiveness & Reunion

In November of 1990, as the long struggle for freedom in South Africa was reaching its climax, a group of black and white spiritual leaders from almost all the churches in that land met at a hotel outside of a little town called Rustenburg.

Some of the leaders represented people who had wounded and wronged blacks. Others represented the people who had been so horribly wounded and wronged, these men and women came together to answer two questions: Could the blacks ever forgive? And could blacks and whites ever be truly united as brothers and sisters?

Desmond Tutu, spiritual leader for many in South Africa, answered for the wounded and the wronged of his beloved country. He gave his answer in a straightforward speech that bears the title “We Forgive You”…Forgive, yes, said Tutu: “The victims of injustice and oppression must be ever ready to forgive.” But could there ever be a coming together?

Ah, that is another question. “Those who have wronged [us] must be ready to make what amends they can…if I have stolen your pen, I can’t really be contrite. When I say, ‘Please forgive me’ if at the same time I still keep your pen. If I am truly repentant, then I will demonstrate this genuine repentance by returning your pen. Then [reunion], which is always costly, will happen…it can’t happen just by saying ‘Let bygones be bygones”

We can forgive him if he keeps the pen. We should not be his friend unless he gives it back.

Lewis Smedes, The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and You Don’t Know How, Ballantine Books.


“What happens here may be expressed by the quite simple and yet unfathomable word, ‘forgive.’ What occurs when I forgive another person?  It does not mean . . .  that I can ‘forget’ what he did to me.  It just can’t do that.  No, when I forgive another, I myself step into the breach and say to myself, ‘The same thing that made the other person mean, hateful, and guilty toward me is in my heart as well.  Ultimately we are two of a kind.’

If I tell my neighbor, ‘I forgive you,’ and I say it from the bottom of my heart, then, in a manner of speaking, I take over the burden of his guilt and place it on my own heart just as though it were mine. . . .  I say, ‘Yes, what you did to me was very wrong; it was even shocking.  But I know from looking at myself how fickle and wicked the human heart is.  Therefore I could do exactly what you did.  It’s coiled up in me too.  So I’ll suffer through it with you.  I’ll put myself in your place.  I’ll share your burden.’  When I forgive another person, I share the burden of his guilt.  I become his brother and his sister, a burden-bearer at his side.” 

Helmut Thielicke.  I Believe:  The Christian’s Creed, trans. by John W. Doberstein and H. George Anderson.  Phil.:  Fortress Press, 1968, p. 116).   

Forgiveness Means…

Forgiveness doesn’t mean “I didn’t really mind” or “it didn’t really matter.” I did mind and it did matter, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything to forgive at all, merely something to adjust my attitudes about. We hear a lot today about people needing to adjust their attitudes to things they formerly thought were wrong; but that’s not forgiveness. If I have a wrong attitude toward someone, and if I need to adjust my attitude, if anything, it’s me who needs forgiveness, for my misguided earlier stance. Nor is forgiveness the same as saying, “Let’s pretend it didn’t really happen.”

This is a little trickier because part of the point of forgiveness is that I am committing myself to work toward the point where I can behave as if it hadn’t happen. But it did happen, and forgiveness isn’t pretending that it didn’t; forgiveness is looking hard at the fact that it did and making a conscious choice-a decision of the moral will-to set aside so that it doesn’t come as a barrier between us.

Taken from Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright Copyright (c) 2006, pp.159-160, by N.T. Wright. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Forgiveness Means Going Soft on Justice

In the Middle East both the main protagonists embrace religions where forgiveness has never been seen as a duty, let alone as a virtue, but rather as a kind of moral weakness—and by “moral weakness” I don’t just mean a failure to keep a moral law but a deficiency in the implicit moral code itself. Nietzsche would have agreed: forgiveness is for wimps. The main moral standard for the main participants in the Middle East conflict is justice. To forgive people, they will say, means going soft on justice, by which they mean the full recompense and punishment which both sides believe they are owed because of atrocities committed by the other.

It’s not just that they don’t want to forgive or that they find it difficult. They believe passionately that it would be immoral, totally wrong. It would belittle the evil that has been done.

Taken from Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright Copyright (c) 2006, p.156, by N.T. Wright. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Forgiving a Concentration Camp Guard

After the defeat of Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II, Holocaust survivor and Christian Corrie ten Boom returned to Germany to declare the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. One evening, after giving her message, she was approached by a man who identified himself as a former Nazi guard from the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, where she had been held and where her sister, Betsie, had died.

When Corrie saw the man’s face, she recognized him as one of the most cruel and vindictive guards from the camp. He reached out his hand and said to her, “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea! You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” About this encounter, Corrie writes:

I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do . . . I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. . . . But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently.

As she reached out her hand to the former guard, Corrie says that something incredible took place. She continues:

The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” . . . I had never known love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love . . . It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

Scott Sauls, A Gentle Answer, Thomas Nelson, 2020, pp.19-20.

From Spitting to Hugging

On a Saturday afternoon in May, 13-year-old Michael Hirschbeck quickly donned his Cleveland batboy uniform and then went looking for his friend. That friend was Roberto Alomar, second baseman for the Cleveland Indians. When he found him, the teenager gave Roberto a big hug. This hug was incredible when you remember that, four years before, Roberto Alomar in a fit of rage spat in the face of Michael’s father, John Hirschbeck.

That ugly moment has been put behind them, and now Roberto and John work together to raise money for ALD (a rare degenerative genetic brain disease) that took the life of John Hirschbeck’s eight-year-old son in 1993. “Maybe God put us in this world to help somebody beat this disease.” The essence of this story, though, is the grace of forgiveness.

Taken from Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, Tyndale House Publishers.

“A Less Obvious Solution”

In The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, the cartoon character Calvin says to his tiger friend, Hobbes, “I feel bad that I called Susie names and hurt her feelings. I’m sorry I did it.”

“Maybe you should apologize to her,” Hobbes suggests. Calvin ponders this for a moment and replies, “I keep hoping there’s a less obvious solution.”

Norm Langston in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching.

The Line Runs Through

In any polarized situation, the overriding human tendency is to draw a line with oneself and one’s allies on the good side and the opposing party on the wicked side, with very little attempt made by either side to understand the other. As these positions harden it becomes almost impossible to achieve the insight necessary for a breakthrough.

For some years now I have kept a file that I call “The Line Runs Through.” This title is from Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic and one of the very few profound public thinkers of our time. You will remember that Havel was one of those who resisted the Communists and was put in prison for his activities.

When he came to power after the Velvet Revolution, Havel was conspicuously forgiving toward his former enemies and other collaborators. Some blamed him for this. But he maintained his position. In the Central European regimes of the seventies and eighties, Havel said, “The line {between good and evil] did not run clearly between ‘them’ and ‘us/ but through each person.

Fleming Rutledge, Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Sermons from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Eerdmans Publishing, 2007.

Moving Forward With Your Life

After the Civil War, in an incident recounted by Charles Flood in Lee: The Last Years, Robert E. Lee visited a woman who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her home. There she cried bitterly that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Union artillery fire. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. But Lee—who knew the horrors of war and had suffered the pain of defeat—said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and then forget it.”

In the late 1990s, Pete Peterson was appointed U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. Peterson had served six years as a prisoner of war in the dreaded “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. When asked how he could return to the land where he’d endured years of starvation, brutality and torture, he replied, “I’m not angry. I left that at the gates of the prison when I walked out in 1972. I just left it behind me and decided to move forward with my life.”

When you’re tempted to get even with those who hurt you, remember that you can’t go back, you can’t stay where you are, but, by God’s grace, you can move forward one step at a time.

Ray Pritchard, Something New Under the Sun

Nelson Mandela and a Presidency of Reconciliation

What does true forgiveness and reconciliation look like? The world was given such an image the day Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President of South Africa. What was so significant was not just that a person of color was becoming the head of a state with years of segregation and mistreatment of its black citizens, but it was also Mandela’s gracious inclusion of his former adversaries that was so inspiring.

When Mandela arrived, he was accompanied by his eldest daughter, as well as the South African security forces. But that was not all. The police and the correctional services (the same people in charge of his 27 years in prison) walked alongside his car, saluted him and escorted him to his inauguration. It was a powerful moment for many reasons, but most of all provided a reminder that just a few years ago, Mandela had been considered by the South African state as a public enemy, a terrorist to be arrested and exiled to a remote prison.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

No Further Instructions

A successful Irish boxer was converted and became a preacher. He happened to be in a new town setting up his evangelistic tent when a couple of tough thugs noticed what he was doing. Knowing nothing of his background, they made a few insulting remarks.

The Irishman merely turned and looked at them.

Pressing his luck, one of the bullies took a swing and struck a glancing blow on one side of the ex-boxer’s face. He shook it off and said nothing as he stuck out his jaw. The fellow took another glancing blow on the other side. At that point the preacher swiftly took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and announced, “The Lord gave me no further instructions,” Whop!

J. Vernon McGee in Charles Swindoll, Tale of a Tardy Oxcart, p 214.

Not Holding Grudges

Clara Barton, the distinguished founder of the American Red Cross, made the personal decision not to hold grudges against those who had wronged her. At one point she was asked whether or not she remembered being hurt by someone years earlier. “Don’t you remember?” the friend asked. “No,” Clara responded firmly. “I distinctly remember forgetting that.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Participating in God’s Forgiveness

It’s so crucial to see our forgiving not simply as our own act, but as participation in God’s forgiving. Our forgiving is faulty; God’s forgiving is faultless. Our forgiving is provisional; God’s is final. We forgive tenuously and tentatively; God forgives unhesitantly and definitively…. The only way we dare forgive is by making our forgiving transparent to God’s and always open to revision. After all, our forgiveness is only possible as an echo of God’s.

Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace.

The Old Bell Keeps Swinging

Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.

“His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what?

After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while.

They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”

Submitted by Chris Stroup, Source Material from Corrie ten Boom

Overcoming Guilt

When Shannon Ethridge was just sixteen years old, an act of forgiveness and love changed her life forever.

Driving to her high school one morning, Shannon struck and ran over Marjorie Jarstfar, who was riding her bicycle along a country road. Marjorie died, and Shannon was found completely at fault by the authorities. Consumed by intense guilt, she contemplated suicide several times, but she never took her life, because of the healing response of one man: Gary Jarstfar.

Gary, Marjorie’s husband, forgave the sixteen-year-old and asked the attorney to drop all charges against her. This saved her from an almost certain guilty verdict. Instead, he simply asked Shannon to continue in the godly footsteps that his wife had taken. “You can’t let this ruin your life,” Gary told her more than twenty years ago. “God wants to strengthen you. In fact, I am passing Marjorie’s legacy on to you.”

Gary’s act of forgiveness showed Shannon the amazing restorative love of God. That act became the foundation of her work seeking to help people overcome guilt-ridden, wounded lives, I sometimes our greatest misery can become the foundation of our greatest ministry.

Tom Hughes, Down to Earth: How Jesus’ Stories Can Change Your Everyday Life, NavPress, 2019, p.25.

A Pastor’s Call to Forgiveness

Pastor Paul Yonggi Cho was in a box of conflict and hatred. Yonggi Cho is pastor of the largest church in the world which is in Korea. Several years ago, as his ministry was becoming international, he told God, “I will go anywhere to preach the gospel— except Japan.” He hated the Japanese with gut-deep loathing because of what Japanese troops had done to the Korean people and to members of Yonggi Cho’s own family during WWII. Mark Buchanan tells the story:

Through a combination of a prolonged inner struggle, several direct challenges from others, and finally an urgent and starkly worded invitation, Cho felt called by God to preach in Japan. He went, but he went with bitterness. The first speaking engagement was to a pastor’s conference—1,000 Japanese pastors. Cho stood up to speak, and what came out of his mouth was this: “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.”

And then he broke and wept. He was both brimming and desolate with hatred.At first one, then two, then all 1,000 pastors stood up. One by one they walked up to Yonggi Cho, knelt at his feet and asked forgiveness for what they and their people had done to him and his people. As this went on, God changed Yonggi Cho. The Lord put a single message in his heart and mouth: “I love you. I love you. I love you.

Mark Buchanan, Your God Is Too Safe, Multnomah.

Pursuing Truth Over Revenge

I would like to share with you a true story that took place during the Revolutionary War.

During that time there was a pastor named Peter Miller, and all through his ministry in a small town in Lancaster County, he had a neighbor who took great pleasure in mocking and ridiculing Miller and his followers.

And as it happens, during the war, that neighbor fell on hard times and was both accused and convicted of treason.

And while of course, he was an unpleasant person, Miller was convinced that he was not in fact, a traitor.

And so Peter Miller decided to travel 70 miles on foot to see George Washington, who he believed could commute the sentence, and free him of the charges against him.

When Miller approached the great general, Washington told him he was sorry but there was nothing he could do to save his friend.

“My Friend?” Miller gasped, he isn’t my friend! In fact he is the greatest enemy I’ve ever had”

Washington needless to say, was surprised:

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That in my judgment puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.”

And so, the story goes, Miller returned home just as his neighbor was being led to the scaffold

The Neighbor cried out to the crowd…

“Old Peter Miller has coming to get his revenge and watch me hang from the scaffold”

Miller said “not at all” and he handed him the paper with his pardon.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material from The Grace of Giving by Stephen Olford.

R.C. Sproul & The Social Paraiah

The pastor R.C. Sproul was studying in the Netherlands in the last 1960s and randomly struck up a conversation with a Dutch woman. The conversation was a common, enjoyable interaction, but when it was over someone nearby came up to him and asked, why were you talking with that woman?

His response was something to the tune of; why wouldn’t I? And their response was quite telling. It was because she had collaborated with the Nazi’s some 30 years go. She had become a pariah, an exile of sorts, in her own city because of a decision she had made decades before. This was the kind of animosity that one could expect when you collaborated with a foreign power despised by the local population.

Now working for the Nazis is no small matter, and it was probably quite understandable for people to resent her decision to work with them. But does that also mean she should never be forgiven? 

Stuart Strachan Jr.

True Healing Occurs When…

Paradoxically…healing means moving from your pain to the pain…When you keep focusing on the specific circumstances of your pain, you easily become angry, resentful, and even vindictive. You are inclined to do something about the externals of your pain in order to relieve it; this explains why you often seek revenge.

But real healing comes from realizing that your own particular pain is a share of humanity’s pain. That realization allows you to forgive your enemies and enter into a truly compassionate life. Every time you can shift your attention away from the external situation that caused your pain and focus on the pain of humanity in which you participate, your suffering becomes easier to bear. It becomes a “light burden” and an “easy yoke” (Matthew 11:30).

The Essential Henri Nouwen, Shambhala, 2009, 54.

Trying To Forgive (Is Difficult)

I went around saying for a long time that I am not one of those Christians who are heavily into forgiveness—that I am one of the other kind. But even though it was funny, and actually true, it started to be too painful to stay this way. They say we are punished not for the sin but by the sin, and I began to feel punished by my unwillingness to forgive. By the time I decided to become one of the ones who are heavily into forgiveness, it was like trying to become a marathon runner in middle age; everything inside me either recoiled, as from a hot flame, or laughed a little too hysterically.

I tried to will myself into forgiving various people who had harmed me directly or indirectly over the years—four former Republican presidents, three relatives, two old boyfriends, and one teacher in a pear tree—it was “The Twelve Days of Christmas” meets Taxi Driver. But in the end I could only pretend that I had forgiven them. I decided I was starting off with my sights aimed too high. As C. S Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “If we really want to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo.”

Ann Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, Riverhead Books.

A Strategy Behind Forgiveness

Another truth is that there is a strategy behind forgiveness. The folklore on forgiveness is that the offender is to seek it, to say “I’m sorry; forgive me.” If we are generous and good-willed, we can then forgive. But the initiative must come from the one seeking forgiveness. The biblical statement is the other way around.

God the offended makes the first move and continues with unrelenting effort to get us to accept his forgiveness. The truth is dual: we must accept the forgiveness so quickly and steadfastly offered to us by God, and we must initiate forgiveness among those who are in our debt, the “our debtors” (Matthew 6:12, RSV) of the Lord’s Prayer.

Forgiveness is deepest when it is initiated and planned by the offended. That is why Christ being crucified on a cross offering forgiveness is the most powerful image of forgiveness we have.

Eugene H.. Peterson, Every Step an Arrival, The Crown Publishing Group.

Stronger Than Before

Forgiveness isn’t pretending nothing has happened, or pretending that what happened didn’t hurt. It isn’t even forgetting it completely, and it isn’t going back and starting over as though it hadn’t ever happened.

Instead, forgiveness is refusing to let anything permanently destroy the relationship. There’s a place for saying, “I’m sorry.” There’s a place for assuring the other person that “all is forgiven.” But the goal of both is to rebuild the relationship. One of the amazing things about a healthy beginning again is that the relationship is often stronger than it was before.

Kenneth Chafin, How to Know When You’ve Got It Made. Christianity Today, Vol. 29, no. 18.

The Ultimate Proof of Total Forgiveness

The ultimate proof of total forgiveness takes place when we sincerely petition the Father to let those who have hurt us off the hook-even if they have hurt not only us, but also those close to us.

R. T. Kendall. Total Forgiveness, Charisma House Publishing.

An Unexpected Friendship

Sometimes moments of forgiveness and friendship come from unexpected places. In 2018, the comedian Pete Davidson appeared on the “Weekend Update” segment of Saturday Night Live (SNL). Davidson made a crude joke about a former Navy Seal turned Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw.

Crenshaw had lost an eye in the line of duty, which became the butt of Davidson’s vulgar joke. The combination of mocking a person’s disability (especially a disability that came from serving his country in war) alongside a clear disapproval of Crenshaw’s political beliefs led to a burst of public outrage. While Davidson was making the joke, it became clear many found it in poor taste, and the vitriol aimed at the young comedian would ultimately lead him down a spiral of depression and self-loathing.

Davidson then took his anguish public, posting on the social media platform Instagram:

“I really don’t want to be on this earth anymore. I’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last. All I’ve ever tried to do was help people. Just remember I told you so.”

When Crenshaw heard about Davidson’s condition, he didn’t do what many do when embroiled in a public tiff: tell the offender the public scorn served him right, or make some other cutting comment at Davidson’s expense.

Instead, Crenshaw decided to extend an olive branch, befriending the comedian, and even offering words of life to a person who clearly felt lost amidst being stuck in the cross-hairs of the American public. Davidson recounts that Crenshaw reached out and comforted him: “God put you here for a reason. It’s your job to find that purpose. And you should live that way.”

Humor, it has often been said, is a coping mechanism to deal with the pain that life throws at us. But in the midst of the deep, unsettling pain of being publicly shamed, what Davidson needed was not a good joke, but forgiveness, and perhaps, even a friend who could share the good news of the gospel with him. In some ways it is ironic that a man trained to kill and destroy his enemies could be so moved by compassion that he reached out to someone who publicly mocked him and his deeply held political beliefs. But that is the beauty of the gospel, it enables us to look beyond our own reputation, our own pride, to care for others.

Stuart Strachan Jr. Source Material from Dino-Ray Ramos, “Texas Congressman-Elect Dan Crenshaw Reaches Out to SNL’s Pete Davidson After Troubling Instagram Post,” Deadline, December 18, 2018.

We are Forgiven as We Forgive

We are taught to pray: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  It is a conditional request.  We are forgiven as we forgive. … Why is this?  It is not that God begrudges his forgiveness, nor is it so hard to get God to forgive that we must demonstrate good faith by showing how well we can first forgive others.  No, not at all.

It is simply that by the very nature of the created order we must give in order to receive.  I cannot, for instance, receive love if I do not give love.

People may try to offer me love, but if resentment and vindictiveness fill my heart, their offers will roll off me like water off a duck’s back.

If my fists are clenched and my arms folded tightly around myself, I cannot hold anything. But once I give love, I am a candidate for receiving love.  Once I open my hands, I can receive.  As Saint Augustine says, “God gives where he finds empty hands.”

Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p.186).

What is Forgiveness?

So, what does it mean to forgive someone? In its simplest terms, to forgive is to “surrender our right to get even.” Practically, this involves four promises:

  • I will no longer dwell on this incident.
  • I will not bring up this incident again or use it against you.
  • I will not talk to others about this incident.
  • I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our relationship.

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.75 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

See also Illustrations on Grace, Guilt, Mercy, Repentance

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Forgiveness. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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