I didn’t know my neighbor’s name until the day he murdered my uncle. One Tuesday morning, a neighborhood feud between the two men escalated into a firefight. Courtroom testimony told us that the neighbor kicked down my uncle’s front door and shot him. And he never spent a night in jail.
Freed on bond, the court cleared him of all charges. He went back to his wife, his home, and his job while our family picked up the pieces. Bitterness, along with its cousins, hate and anger, began to grow deep roots and sprout poisonous fruit in my heart.
I hope your story doesn’t include a murderer who escaped justice, but you probably have people in your life who have sinned against you. If we live long enough, we can acquire an impressive collection of hurts that can leave us bitter and angry.
My story came to a head late one night about six months after my uncle’s death. Unable to sleep, I sought comfort in the Scriptures. I realized that while my uncle’s murderer had escaped his earthly punishment, no lawyer would ever be able to protect him from the justice he would face in eternity. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of pity for this man—this man who so desperately needed a Savior—just like I had.
“Tell him,” the Lord said. “Tell him that ‘very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’” (Romans 5:7-8).
I shared my heart in a letter. I expressed the pain his actions had caused our family. I described how God had saved me from an equally sinful nature, and how he extends this forgiveness to all. And I offered my own forgiveness. “Because God has forgiven me,” I wrote, “I forgive you.”
You may wonder how you can forgive someone who has sinned against you. From my experience and the Bible, I’d like to share seven things to remember when you’re struggling to forgive.