For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14
The judge called it "strength." The prosecutor called it "refreshing." And the general public called it "crazy!" It was the response of forgiveness which a 70 year-old woman had towards the man who cut her throat and sexually assaulted her.
Madge Rodda was a church organist, and on the night she was molested, she had been practicing music in church, and afterwards stopped by a local restaurant to get something to eat. When she went to a restroom, she was suddenly apprehended by a man who had a stocking pulled over his face. He eventually became her attacker. She had every right to be angry and bitter. Most people would have been, but she wasn't. She forgave the man. When James Bridle was sentenced to 17 years in prison for the crime against Madge, she showed up in court to offer forgiveness and a Bible to the man she could have hated.
What she did startled the judge and the prosecutors who commented that most people would have wanted the very worst for their attacker--but not her. She said, "There was never any time when I didn't forgive him. Nobody else in the world may love this man, but God loves him."
Madge may have played the organ in her church, but she also listened to some of the messages. She knew clearly the importance of forgiveness. Madge realized that when we carry a grudge and nurse a thirst for vengeance, we become victims twice. Have you, even in a small way, been in the position of this little woman? Someone hurt you. You may not have been molested as she was, but, nonetheless, you became a victim of an injustice. Someone did something to you which caused grief and pain. How did you respond? Did you say what Madge said, "I'll tell him that it doesn't matter what he's done"? Or did you say, "I hope he gets what he deserves."
When you are confronted with wrongdoing, you have one of three choices: (1) Revenge, (2) Repression, or (3) Forgiveness. There are no other alternatives. For a few moments, let's analyze the consequences of each. Most people live for revenge. But violence only begets more violence, and the cycle is unending. It results in continued pain and anger. Rachel Saint understood this. Her brother, Nate, was one of five young men killed by Auca Indians (now known as Waoranis) on a sandy landing strip beside a jungle river in Ecuador.
Rachel eventually lived and worked with the tribe who had slain her brother. At least two guns were accessible to these five who had determined that, if necessary, they would lay down their lives before they resorted to violence. The Aucas thought that Rachel had come to take revenge for what they had done. When they learned that she was there to make peace, they were decimated. Their whole culture was based on revenge. There was no word in the Auca language for forgiveness. But she introduced it.
The second alternative to wrongdoing is to repress the incident. Try to block it from your memory, refuse to think about it. But repression doesn't work. It is still there, like a cancer underneath the surface. Like a dormant volcano, it eventually erupts with deadly spew that poisons a life.
The third alternative, the one that Madge Rodda chose to follow, is forgiveness. And why should anyone forgive? In simple terms, if you should ever have need for God to forgive you, you had better forgive, for Jesus said, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14).
Resource reading: Psalm 51