TITLE: Choose to Forgive
By Betty Shattuck
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CHOOSE TO FORGIVE
By Betty Shattuck
As I was sitting in the police station on that warm August afternoon, I heard the still, small voice of the Lord gently say to me, “You have to forgive him.”
I thought, “Oh, that’s right! Nothing like a crucial experience to test what I just taught my Sunday school class yesterday! Lord, you’re going to have to help me do this, but I confess to you that I do forgive him, please help me to feel it.”
I looked over and saw the police officer that had driven me to the station a few hours before and walked over to him.
I said, “Could you get a message to the young man that robbed me and tell him that I forgive him for what he did? I will press charges, though, because he must learn that he cannot go around doing these things, but I want him to know I forgive him because of Christ’s forgiveness.”
The policeman was astounded at what I said because, just a few hours earlier, I was laying on the floor of the church office where I worked, with a threatening knife at my throat as this guy was attempting to cut off my bra.
During those fearful moments, I said to my attacker, “May I pray for you?” Out loud I prayed, “Father, show him that you love him, that you died for him and you want him to be your child.
Looking back at this experience makes me grateful that the Lord had been preparing me while I was studying for my Sunday school lesson. The steps I taught my class were played out in the above scenario.
The first step was to choose to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.” Forgiveness is not entirely an unselfish act. If I didn’t forgive, my heart and mind would become bitter, resentful, angry, hateful, fearful and revengeful. I would be hurting myself and I definitely did not want to do that! Also, Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15: “Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.”
Remembering those verses convinced me to choose to forgive. I just had to be willing to forgive and Christ did the rest. Isn’t that the way it always works? We just have to be willing to forgive, to love, to encourage, to praise God, to be a witness, to be obedient, to go where and do what he wants us to do. Once we choose and are willing, Christ does the work in our hearts, opens doors, prepares the way, gives wisdom, courage and strength and even implants love within our hearts for those who hurt us.
The second step is to acknowledge that you forgive. Telling someone is the first step in doing it. Your words become a confession of faith. You may eventually be tempted to get angry, but by again stating that you forgave and it’s settled, you put that person or situation “under the blood of Christ.”
Thirdly, pray that God will bless that person. I know the Holy Spirit was in control of my words that day, because instead of praying the fear of God into him, my prayer was that God would reveal Himself to the culprit. Remember in Luke 6:24, Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Implore God’s blessing on those who hurt you.” (LB) By praying for God’s blessing on your enemy, God will give you love for them. Which again takes us back to the beginning steps -- to be willing to love them.
I believe that forgiving him within hours of the incident released me to receive spiritual, emotional and psychological healing and comfort from God in a shortened space of time. And most importantly, it also released my husband and family from unforgiveness, hatred and revenge against this young man. Further, it witnessed to the offender and his family, the probation officer and the police officers on the case.
This experience also gave me the opportunity to share the forgiveness message with my unsaved alcoholic neighbor, at a church and jail ministry services, and at a Women’s Aglow meeting. People revealed to me of their decision to forgive someone who had hurt them because this important message touched their heart. Through letters exchanged between us and through a chaplain’s ministry, the young man eventually confessed Christ as his Savior while he was still incarcerated.
I know my forgiveness released Satan’s grasp on him which enabled him to receive from God the forgiveness and blessings that I declared to him on that fateful summer day. I am overjoyed to see that this encounter was used for good and not evil, all because of making the right choices which allowed God to work.
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