(Jesus said) "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:12-15
Last December you read a Daily Devotion which asked, "What would you do?"
That devotion told of a Jewish man who had lost his family in the Nazi death camps. When a mortally wounded German soldier asked him for forgiveness, he was unable to offer it. For a long time he wondered if he had done the right thing.
The devotion asked, "What would you do if you had been in that man's shoes?"
Since I knew none of us would ever be in that Jewish man's shoes, I didn't expect anyone to answer. I didn't expect an answer, but one came anyway. It came from Nancy Haas of Yankton, South Dakota. With her permission, I am sharing part of what she wrote. She began,
"My daughter was murdered at the age of 19 years old in the fall of 1992."
As a father, it is difficult for me to imagine a more terrible sentence for any parent to write. The facts are these: it was the night before homecoming and Nancy's daughter, Tammy, went to a party at a Nebraska farm. She never came home. Nancy continued,
"... the person(s) who ... did it tossed her body down a hill at a golf course. She was missing for six days until a golfer found her body. (Those who murdered her) do not want forgiveness, but I do forgive them. I, in my heart as a human, would give anything if they would just come to me and say, 'We are sorry and accept your forgiveness.'"
I have not met, nor have I talked to Nancy personally. Even so, I cannot help but believe she has a deep understanding of what happened the day Jesus died to save us.
We who have been brought to faith know that Jesus had spent His entire life fulfilling the promises His Father made to sinful humankind. That life which had been lived without flaw or fail, culminated on Calvary's cross where Jesus, carrying our sins, died the death we deserved.
Amazingly, the first words out of His mouth were, "Father, forgive them" (see Luke 23:34).
Have you ever noticed that Jesus spoke those words even though no confession had been made and no repentance had been shown? Jesus didn't withhold His forgiveness until the Roman soldiers were mobbed by a convicted, repentant crowd, demanding His release.
No, while people were still mocking and maligning Him, while they were still motivated by malice and meanness, Jesus forgave. Nancy, without any confession or heartfelt apology from her daughter's killer(s) has followed the Savior's example. The same should be said of all of us.
Why? Because when believers cherish and treasure sins that have been done to them, it blinds them to the total forgiveness Jesus has won for them on the cross. Because when believers have a special spot in their hearts for anger and vengeance, that spot has no room for the Lord. Lastly, because when we demand the justice scale be balanced, we are not loving as Jesus loved us.
It would have been a wonderful thing if Calvary's crowd, having heard the Savior, would have confessed their sins, but it didn't happen. Similarly, Nancy may never hear words of repentance. And ... you may never get the apology you want.
Even so, we do what is right; we forgive as we have been forgiven.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, let me learn to forgive even those whom I do not wish to forgive. Help me forgive as I have been forgiven. In Your Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries