One man, whose stepfather had abused his family growing up, carried around a boatload of anger. On the battlefield in Viet Nam, he became almost obsessed with vengeance and he vowed that the first time he saw his stepfather upon his return to the states that he would kill him. He would make him pay for what he had done to his family. But when he returned a few months later, he became a Christian and, began to put his stepfather out of his mind.
Four years passed. Being forgiven and transformed by God’s grace made it possible to let go of the anger and bitterness, and he really never even thought much about his stepfather. But then, his stepfather showed up. His wife, being the loving person she was let him in. As they sat and talked, he remembered what he had vowed in Viet Nam and he said “I made a vow in Vietnam that the first time I saw you, I would kill you. Today is that day.”
He said, that he would never forget the look of terror that came over his stepfather’s face. He started to sweat and slide down on the couch. But then he went on “But I now know that I’m no better a person than you. God has forgiven me. And if he can forgive a sinner like me, I can forgive you. I will not allow you to hurt my family again, so don’t think that this is made out of weakness. Rather, I forgive you because I have been forgiven.”
This man then wrote:
I may not have been as abusive as my former stepfather. I may not have hurt people in the same way he had hurt our family. But I had also abused and hurt people in my own self-seeking way. When I came to that awareness, I knew that I needed mercy and forgiveness. And in receiving the gift of life that Jesus extended to me through his work on the cross, extending mercy and forgiveness to my former stepfather was a natural response. My vow had been the rash, irresponsible reaction of a deeply hurt, bitter young sinner. However, my ability later to forgive came from the eternal, loving act of grace in Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin. I discovered that the key to forgiveness is to stop focusing on what others have done to us and focus instead on what Jesus has done for us.