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Jesus on stained glass

21) Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? 22) “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven." Matthew 18:21 (KJV)

In Luke 23:34 (KJV), Jesus proved His point personally when He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots."

Recently, I read two articles that really touched me. One was about a black Highway Patrolman assisting a white supremacy advocate who was suffering from intense heat. The other was about a German fighter pilot in WWII escorting a damaged American B-17 to a safer location and bidding them farewell. This story concludes with a reunion years later of both pilots, who embraced each other as brothers.

Only a sense of forgiveness can achieve such a transformation in the human spirit. That transformation comes as one seeks to follow the teaching of a radical religious teacher named Jesus.

Jesus came to let us know more about God, His love, compassion, mercy, justice and forgiveness. Forgiveness is a tremendous key to relationships. We are prone to make mistakes, and forgiveness wipes many of them away. Jesus spoke many times about this need in our lives. Once Jesus told us that if, when we're in church, we remember a friend who had something against us, to leave our offering and go and be reconciled.

Matthew 5:24 KJV -- 24) "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

I believe this truly indicates how important forgiveness is. Jesus also taught to forgive if we expect to be forgiven ourselves. Luke 11: 2-4 (HCSB) -- 2) "He said to them, 'Whenever you pray, say: Father, Your name is honored as holy. Your kingdom come. 3) Give us each day our daily bread. 4) And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. And do not bring us into temptation.”

An episode of the Gunsmoke TV program told of a bandit robbing a church, killing the priest and taking the church’s silver service. In the priest's dying gasp, he reached out to his killer and said, “I forgive you." No matter how hard he tried, no one would buy the silver. In frustration, he threw the bag at the priest in Dodge City and ran out. The words of the priest he killed haunted him daily and when the marshal shot him, in his dying gasp he said, “I forgive you."

The unknown writer of the following verse had it right: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent us a Savior." Forgiveness is a commodity we cannot live without.

Dear friends, is there someone you need to forgive? Perhaps someone who has wronged you? Get it straightened out. I find it does not matter who says I’m sorry first, just so it gets said and heeded.

No matter how we see our world, it’s the only one we have, and we all must learn to live together. God bless!

J. Frank Hay Jr. is an Orangeburg pastor and chaplain.


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