Life Changing Power of Forgiveness

My Accident. When Steve’s email hit my inbox with this header, my heart sank. Oh no. What happened? Did he fall?

Steve is one of my spiritual fathers. An elder at our church decades ago, he and his wife, Pat, modeled godly parenting to my husband, David, and me as we sought to raise our young children in the faith. They had raised six boys and “adopted” many of the young couples in our church, modeling faith, family, and friendship. We’d connected further over our New England roots. When I felt homesick for Rhode Island, I’d seek out Steve and “talk some Yankee.”

When Pat died in her early sixties, Steve resigned his job at the Bible college in town and went back to the mission field in Micronesia. He served there until a stroke partially paralyzed the left side of his body and rendered his left arm useless.

Now eighty-something and frail, he walks with a shuffling step and a cane. “But the Lord’s not finished with me yet,” he declares, “so I keep going. It isn’t fast, and it isn’t pretty, but I get there.”

Except this time, he didn’t get there. Walking through a grocery store parking lot, he was struck by a car and knocked to the ground. “But thankfully not run over,” he wrote in his email. In his characteristic “in everything give thanks” style, he described his injuries: a fractured hip repaired with three screws, a fractured shoulder doctors said would heal on its own, and “quite a concussion.”

“So I thought I’d let you know why I’ll be out of circulation for a while.” I could picture him dictating the words, thought by thought, into his trusty iPad.

His next words brought tears to my eyes: “I immediately thought, I need to find out who hit me so I can tell him that he is forgiven. If I was the one who hit someone, I couldn’t live with myself, so I figured that whoever hit an old man would really need to be free from the feeling of heavy guilt.”

I read the email to David and shook my head. “He’s lying in a rehab center with a paralyzed arm, a broken hip, a broken shoulder, and a concussion, and the first thing he thinks about is comforting the driver who hit him?”

I read the next line of the email. “Amazingly, my son found him from the police report. I’m going to meet with him this week.”

Our friend Steve reached out to the man who injured him because he knows the life-changing power of forgiveness. Not only does he know it, he’s experienced it. Years ago, as a young adult, he confessed the weight of his sin to God and received not only forgiveness, but a relationship with God that transformed his life.

Steve can forgive because Jesus forgave.

Hanging on the cross, bleeding from wounds in his head and hands, and gasping in the agony of asphyxiation, Jesus wasn’t thinking of himself on that dark Passover eve. 

He was thinking of those who had put him there. 

The Sanhedrin. 

The Roman executioners. 

The crazed mob eager for blood. 

And you.

And me.

Sinners whose sin debt nailed Him to the cross.

He looked on them—and on us—not with vengeance, but with love.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” He cried (Luke 23:34).

As He extended forgiveness to the undeserving, He showed us the way.

His forgiveness—freely offered—made peace possible between God and humanity.

Those of us who receive it—full, free and glorious—have a responsibility: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

This is what Steve did, and, if we’re followers of Jesus Christ, this is what we must do.

In a later email, Steve described his meeting with the man who struck him.

“When he came into the room, he covered his face with his hands. I called his name and looked directly into his eyes, and he into mine.”

“Please believe that I hold absolutely nothing against you. I let it all go.”

For the next twenty minutes, the driver talked, and Steve listened. Then Steve said again, “Do you clearly understand that I hold absolutely nothing against you? Do you receive my words?”

The man nodded and extended his hand, swiping at the corners of his eyes.

He left soon after, his step lighter, and his shoulders free from the burden he’d carried for weeks.

Steve concluded his email with a prayer request: “Please pray that I will listen to God through this all and let it drive me closer to Him. Also pray that I might be a correct witness to the people here at the rehab center.”

I’ll pray that prayer for you, Steve, I thought, but I think God has already answered it . . . .

—Written by Lori Hatcher. Used by permission from the author.