I Forgive You

Roy Borges was in prison when he came to Christ. Even though he was now a Christ follower, he still had to fight the urge to act the way he did before Jesus. On one fateful day, Ray went to his cell only to find that his battery-operated razor and a bag of coffee were missing. These were very valuable in prison, and Roy was ready to give the thief a little of his own. In prison, it’s fairly easy to track down who stole something of yours, and Roy found this man quickly. He confronted the man and told him he wanted his razor back. The man denied he took anything. Roy knew he was lying and was getting angry. The other man saw it, too.

During the staredown, cooler heads prevailed and Roy just walked away. He decided to do things God’s way. Grace. Love. Mercy. Later that day, Roy went back to him and said, “I forgive you.” The man then said, “I didn’t take your coffee.” Roy hadn’t mentioned the coffee in their first encounter. This was an unintentional admission of guilt. Roy just smiled, however, and again said, “I forgive you.”

The following Sunday at chapel, Roy noticed that the man was in the service. He was listening intently to the message and came forward when the invitation to know Christ was given. That day he gave his life over to Christ. Roy went up to the man, who’s name was Git, and talked to him about that day. When Roy had told him, “I forgive you”, he’d immediately felt shame and regret for what he had done. That Sunday, he felt something urging him to be at the chapel service. Git said, with a tear running down his face, “My life has been such a mess. I need Jesus to take over my life, forgive me of my sin, and change me.” As they embraced, Roy found himself thankful that his razor and coffee had been stolen. Grace was more important…something for nothing.

For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Romans 3:22–25

When it comes to sin, none of us can say we’ve avoided it our whole lives. Not one of us can say that we’ve never done something apart from God’s design. We are not perfect. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about redemption. God sent Jesus to earth to be the perfect sacrifice to forgive us of all sin. I couldn’t be more thankful for that amazing gift, but I have to ask, “Why would you even consider giving us this amazing gift of redemption through Christ’s blood when we are so ingrateful most of the time?” This is the amazing thing about grace. It’s God’s favor even when we don’t deserve it. His love goes deeper than our sin can. His desire for us causes him to do something that makes no sense to our selfish, human minds. The fact that He gave us His grace when we have treated Him terribly says a lot about our God.

Imagine giving the orders and facilitating the beating and arrests of Christians. Imagine standing by and watching as Christians are killed simply for following Christ. Could there be anything more evil? Is it even possible for a person like that to receive God’s grace and change? It is, and it happened. One of the early disciples of Jesus after He went to His father, Stephen, was stoned for preaching the gospel. The verse following begins the story of someone who would go on to be the greatest missionary in history.

And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Acts 8:1–3

Saul was a member of the Sanhedrin and was considered a Jew among Jews. He followed the Law to the letter and made it His mission to eradicate this new faith that many were calling “The Way.” He knew that Jesus was a liar and a hypocrite who had made a mockery of God’s Word and God’s design. Everything he was doing, he did in the name of the Most High God….at least he thought he was. 

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Acts 9:1–6

In an instant, Saul’s world changed drastically. This Jesus that he had been working to erase was now talking to him audibly! Jesus called out Saul for the evil things that he had been doing, and now he had to come face to face with his own transgressions against the very God that he was trying to serve. A man named Ananias would soon come to meet, teach, and baptize Saul, effectively redirecting the trajectory of his life.

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Acts 9:19–22

Saul would later be known as Paul and would spread the message of the Gospel of Jesus throughout Asia Minor and into Rome. He would spend time in prison, shipwrecked, beaten, and hunted down, but he would never reject Christ again. He had been changed by the grace of God, and the rest of his life would be in service to the Almighty. 

So many of us think that our sin is too deep, too awful, too wretched for God to forgive, but how many of us have been responsible for the imprisonment or even death of Christians? God’s grace is more accessible than we can possibly understand, but we need to understand that it is very, very real. God chose to give it to us even though we don’t deserve it. When you are dealing with personal sin and wallowing in sorrow, remember that God has offered his grace to us through the blood of Jesus. We have a future. We have a hope. Our response is to live out a life that is eternally grateful for that grace and changed by it. Three words change everything. I forgive you. Thank you Jesus.

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