Not being able to sleep, near death, the young man grabbed the arm of the person next to him. He screamed " I can't rest from my torment, I have committed terrible crimes..Please help me." The young man was a prison guard. He had been accused of a crime and thrown into a communist prison. He was waiting execution in a cold damp cell with many people he had tortured just weeks before. Most of these men in the cell were only guilty of being Christian, not willing to recant their faith for the sake of the party they were sentenced to death.
The young man was beyond despair, locked up with men he had brutally beaten, facing death with these Christians. He begged them for help, how could they be so calm, at such peace, at anytime the jailer would come and get them for their date with death. He looked across and his eyes met those of one he had brutally beaten and tortured, he was horrified at the almost none human form of his mangled face and body…yet moved by the compassion in his eyes.
Abbot Iscu, not able to stand on his own, was lifted to his feet by two cellmates, and helped over to the young guard and laid a comforting hand on his torturer's head.
"You are young and did not know what you were doing. I forgive you, as do all of the other Christians you have mistreated, and if we sinners, who have been forgiven by Jesus can love like this, how much more is He Himself ready, to erase all the evil you have done, to cleanse you fully. Only repent."
As the young guard confessed his sin, tears rolled on the faces of the others in the cell, they embraced a new believer into the family of God, and later that evening one by one they went to their death to face the Judge of all men. The young guard executed just hours after being forgiven by the men he had beaten, and his sin forgiven by the eternal Judge of all men.
This happened at Tirgul-Ocna prison in Romania, sometime in the winter of 1951. As I read it I was so moved by the forgiveness these men offered. In our group we just started a study of Galatians, an epistle of supreme grace, and this story is an example of grace. When we start our recovery from hurts, habits and hang-ups, forgiveness can be an area of struggle. The inability to accept and offer forgiveness can stall and block our recovery. This kind of forgiveness breaks that negative cycle, it may not solve all the questions of blame, justice and fairness but it does allow for healing to start.
Ephesians 1:7 (NET)…In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.’’
The most important kind of forgiveness is from God to us. Do we accept Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross? By His willingness to take our punishment, all of our sins were cancelled. Our debt has been paid in full, it is a free gift for all who place their faith in Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NET) …For By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”
No matter how bad we feel we are, or how much we have been hurt or hurt others, Gods grace is always sufficient. His forgiveness is always complete, with no strings attached. We also, have to be willing to forgive others, this often times is very difficult, it is a process, we have to be willing to forgive others and ask God to work in our lives to help our unforgiveness. But to be truly free from the past we have to let go of the pain and harm others have caused us.
And possibly the hardest forgiveness to give is to ourselves. We may find grace to forgive others, and accept Gods forgiveness, but often we feel the guilt and shame of our past and think it’s just not possible to forgive ourselves. We try to make ourselves better, we think we can make up for the past… we try to…earn forgiveness for ourselves, we try to add to this grace. We just can't get past it, our recovery and fullness of a new life, seems always out of reach. So close but we just can't seem to grasp it. We want to fix it ourselves, just try harder to make it this time, work the program we say, do the steps more often. We do want to be good, we think we can do it on our own but the sad reality is that we can't. Romans 7:18 tells us we have a sin nature, we try but we cannot do it.
No matter how unloved or worthless we feel, God loves us, He died for us. Our feelings don’t change His view of us one bit, never in a million years will He say “..But I remember when you..” No, today as we stand before the Judge of all eternity, in Jesus Christ, He already having paid the price, once and for all, Jesus says, “Father, this one is washed in My Blood, He trusts in me…this one is mine..” The shackles of all our bondage, the strongholds of our past are let loose by God Himself, and the Judge of all mankind invites us, you and me into His family forever and ever, so that now we come before Him as sons, heirs of the eternal kingdom of God.
Galatians 4:6-7 (NET)…” and because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, who calls “ Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if are a son, then you are also an heir through God.
This is grace more abundant, we don’t have to worry about the past, we are no longer a slave to our past action, addictions, hurts or pains. We just trust Him today, walk in His Spirit of Freedom and let Him write our future…Forgiveness is about letting go and letting God, and as Jesus, while on the cross said "it is finished." John 19:30 (NKJV)