Saturday, August 17, 2013

Forgiving the Man Who Killed My Son

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1, NLT)

Rev. Walter H. Everett answered the phone, unprepared for the words he heard: “Scott was murdered last night.” Walter’s anger toward his son’s killer raged through him like a violent riptide, growing even worse when a plea bargain resulted in reduced sentence for the attacker. He wrote in an article entitled “Forgiving The Man Who Killed My Son” (Decision, December 1996, pg 32):

“My rage was affecting my entire life. ‘How am I going to let go of this anger?’ I wondered. The answer came the first time I saw Mike (his son’s murderer), almost a year after Scott’s death. Mike stood in court prior to his sentencing and said he was truly sorry for what he had done.

Just a picture, not the real persons in the story
Three-and-a-half weeks later, on the first anniversary of Scott’s death, I wrote to Mike. I told him about my anger and asked some pointed questions. Then I wrote, ‘Having said all that, I want to thank you for what you said in court, and as hard as these words are for me to write, I forgive you.’ I wrote of God’s love in Christ and invited Mike to write to me if he wished.

Three weeks later, his letter arrived. He said that when he had read my letter, he couldn’t believe it. No one had ever said to him, ‘I forgive you.’ That night he had knelt beside his bunk and prayed for, and received, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Additional correspondence led to regular visits during which we spoke often of Mike’s (and my) growing relationship with Christ. Later I spoke on Mike’s behalf before the parole board, and he was given an early release. In November 1994, I was the officiating minister at his wedding.

When asked about his early release, Mike says, ‘It felt good, but I was already out of prison. God had set me free when I asked for his forgiveness.’

Can I truly forgive? I had wondered if it were possible. But I’ve discovered the meaning of the Apostle Paul’s words: ‘For freedom Christ has set us free.’”

He that doth not forgive burns the bridge
over which he himself must need pass

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