Forgiveness

It happened in a little church, in a little town. I was there; I saw it; I heard it. Toward the conclusion of the service, a trembling woman came forward and sat on the front pew, asking forgiveness. She had been an absenter for several years. The woman who sat directly behind her, shocked, grew pale and nervous. Several in the audience seemed bewildered and wondered if trouble would start all over again; for there had been trouble, lots of it, tragic and heartbreaking– two murders, court trials with opposing families, and one death in the electric chair.

The responding woman was the mother of the murderer. The woman behind her… it was her husband and son whose blood had been shed. What will her reaction be? Will her mercy go unstrained? Will her forgiveness be big enough to welcome the mother of the man who widowed her and left her bereft of both husband and son? It was! She went to her, clasped her hand and said, “I’m glad you have come back to be with us in the church.” She later commented, “I feel better than I have felt in years. Now I feel free.”

“Now I feel free” – an expression of a liberating principle in the art of living! One may be imprisoned while he is free or be free while he is in prison, depending upon how he binds or looses himself within his own heart.

Amidst the fabulous wealth of Egypt and the glory and splendor of royalty, nervousness paced the second ruling power in the land as emotion pulled at his heart strings. But like sunshine suddenly darting through breaking clouds, a sigh of relief went up at the announcement, “Joseph, it is a boy!” He named that son Manasseh; “For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). Forgiveness!

What had he forgotten? The unmerciful abuse of his envious brothers who sold him into slavery; his servitude in Potiphar’s house; the lies of the lustful, conniving, vengeful woman that sent him to prison. Now it is different– now he is on top! And the secret of the climb was his own forgiving spirit. He could have chained and shackled himself with rancor and retaliation, vindictiveness and vengeance– many have! But he didn’t! He enjoyed the only real freedom there is, freedom from within; so he was free to rise– and he did! (Leroy Brownlow, Making the Most of Life, pp. 34-35).

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