But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15
When 10-year-old Chris Carrier stepped off a school bus on a December morning in 1974, little did he know how his life was about to change. Six days later, Chris was found some 75 miles from his home. He had been burned with cigarettes, stabbed with an ice pick, and then shot in the head. When his kidnapper and molester walked away from the little boy’s body, he thought he was dead.
But Chris recovered, and he gave police a description of the man who had molested him. Police were quite certain that they knew who the man was who had committed the horrible crime, but there was not enough evidence to charge the man.
For the next three years, Chris lived in constant torment and fear, thinking that since the man knew where he lived, he would come back and finish him off. He later described those horrible nights of fear saying, “At night if I heard the floorboard creak I’d get up and sleep at the foot of my parents’ bed. I was constantly afraid of what was around the corner.”
Then at the age of 13, Chris’s life took another unforeseen turn. He became a Christian and slowly came to understand that God--not chance or even his abductor--was in control of his life. Did it make a difference? “From that time on,” he said, “I started saying, ‘It’s time to get on with my life.’” He did, too.
After graduating from high school and college, he went to seminary to study for ministry. Then for a number of years he served as a youth pastor. He married and became the father of two children. During those years people would ask him, “If you met the man who had kidnapped you, what would you do?” It was a hard question to answer.
Then his phone rang. It was the police officer who had worked on the case, now 22 years prior. They had the man who had molested and kidnapped him. No, he wasn’t in prison. He was in a care facility, dying, and to clear his conscience, he had confessed. Did Chris want to see the man? Yes, he did.
Taking his pastor with him, Chris Carrier confronted the man who caused the scars of his abuse, including living with blindness in one eye--the result of the gunshot wound to the head. Expectedly, the man was nervous. But Chris came back, again and again. He brought his wife and children and developed a strange relationship with the man. Most of all, Chris wanted the man to know--not only that he had forgiven him--but that God would forgive him as well. The day finally came when the old man prayed, asking God’s forgiveness and healing. He died with a clear conscience.
No wonder the media carried the story. In a cruel and vengeful world, an exhibition of forgiveness such as this is not only unusual, it mirrors the grace of Him who hanged on a cross and cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
No virtue better reflects the nature of the Gospel than does forgiveness. Think about it. It is man’s sinful nature that demands vengeance for wrongdoing--an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Who would be surprised if a victim such as Chris should hurl angry words at his former kidnapper telling him that his life had been destroyed by his lustful act. But instead, and these are Chris’s actual words, “I tried to make sure he realized that my life has been extremely full and blessed. I told him how my relationship with the Lord has been my grace and stronghold.”
To demand vengeance is natural; to forgive is supernatural. That’s what the grace of God is about--forgiveness for our failures, our shortcomings, our sins. As David cried long ago, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4, KJV). That’s still good news, friend.
Resource reading: Psalm 130:1-8