(Peter said) "Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." And Simon answered, "Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me." Acts 8:22-24
The passage above is part of the story of Simon Magus: Simon, the magician who, in the book of Acts, tried to buy the ability to perform miracles.
While church tradition has always said Simon was a very bad man and responsible for many of the heresies, which troubled early Christianity, Scripture is silent. The last we hear of Simon is his plea to the apostles that they pray for him.
All of this is to say, we don't know the rest of the story. We don't know whether Simon's plea came from a truly repentant heart.
In the last weeks I've noticed a similar thing playing out in the press concerning Lance Armstrong. Once the undisputed bicycler of the world, Armstrong has now, like other athletes with feet of clay, fallen into disrespect. That's because the man who once said he never used drugs to improve his performance, the man who chastised anyone who said he did, has come forward and made a confession. Yes, he did use those drugs, and he did so with impunity.
"Liar!" "Scoundrel!" "Charlatan!" "Fallen idol!"
Those are just some of the adjectives which are being coupled to the name, Lance Armstrong.
God says we are to forgive, as we have been forgiven. We pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" (see Matthew 6:9-15). Jesus tells us we are to forgive "seventy times seven" (see Matthew 18:21-22).
When they hear that, many people are responding with something like, "I don't think so. The man lied. He cheated. I trusted him, and he let me down."
Well, folks, all I can say is, we don't know the rest of Armstrong's story. We don't know whether his repentance is real or if his heart is sincere. All we know is that Lance Armstrong has made a confession to Oprah. I pray he has done the same before the Lord.
If so, the Savior, who can see true repentance in a man's heart, will forgive Lance Armstrong just as He has forgiven me and you and so many others.
This maybe explains why I wrote -- and you're reading -- this devotion. If the Savior has forgiven us, how can we not forgive others, especially the public others like Lance Armstrong.
So, forgiveness is what I'm going to do for Lance, even if I don't know the rest of his story.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, because of Jesus I am forgiven of my many and oft-repeated sins. I have been set free of transgressions I did not know and those I have done deliberately. May I who have received grace do the same for others. In Jesus Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries