The Sacrifice Called Forgiveness

Matthew 18: 21-35

  • Reflect on this passage alone or in a small group.

On May 13th, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot four times at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City by Mehmet Ali Agca. Agca was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison. Following a near-death experience at a hate-filled assassin’s hands led to one obvious conclusion for the Pope: “pray for my brother whom I have sincerely forgiven.” Pope John Paul II went on to request Agca be pardoned, visited him in prison, and built a relationship with the assassin’s family. Mehmet Ali Agca was utterly forgiven. Agca converted to Christianity while imprisoned, and in 2014, a freed Agca laid two dozen white roses on the tomb of his forgiver. His life sentence was no more, and a man he once wanted dead, now a dearly departed friend. That’s the power of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is often the most challenging thing to do during a time where hatred, fighting, and winners and losers are what define conflict resolution. Today, society views forgiveness as something that needs to be earned and not given freely. That’s one thing society has gotten right! It is a natural law that goes back to the beginning of creation; forgiveness must be bought. The difference lies with who pays for it. Society believes the offender must pay the price, do time, or make amends to be forgiven. Two thousand years ago, God led by example and showed something else. The transgressor’s forgiveness is paid for through the sacrifice of the forgiver. What?

Christian-like forgiveness requires unconditional love. True forgiveness does not wait for the payment; true forgiveness is the payment. It’s a forgiveness that lets a man with a lifetime sentence walk away free. And it’s a forgiveness that breaks the bondage of hate and turns it into two dozen white roses instead.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Teach us to forgive what you have overlooked. Teach us to love what you have loved from the beginning. Teach us to live in a way that you have purposed us to live for all eternity. Amen.

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