Monday, November 08, 2021

Why Forgive?

“If he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” Luke 17:4

Detective Steven McDonald worked in the New York City Police Department when he was shot in the face and throat by one of the teenage boys he was questioning. As a result, Steven was paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair and breathing machine. 

He was interviewed by Johann Christoph Arnold who wrote Steven’s story in his book, “Why Forgive?”. This is an excerpt from the book:

“Then, about six months after I was shot, Patti Ann (his wife of a little over a year) gave birth to a baby boy. We named him Conor. To me, Conor’s birth was like a message from God that I should live, and live differently. And it was clear to me that I had to respond to that message. I prayed that I would be changed, that the person I was would be replaced by something new.

That prayer was answered with a desire to forgive the young man who shot me. I wanted to free myself of all the negative, destructive emotions that his act of violence had unleashed in me: anger, bitterness, hatred, and other feelings. I needed to free myself of those emotions so that I could love my wife and our child and those around us.

Then, shortly after Conor’s birth, we held a press conference. People wanted to know what I was thinking and how I was doing. That’s when Patti Ann told everyone that I had forgiven the young man who tried to kill me.”

Steven wrote to Shavod Jones while the teenager was in prison, and eventually Shavod called him and apologized. “I accepted his apology, and I told him I hoped he and I could work together in the future. I hoped that one day we might travel around the country together sharing how this act of violence had changed both our lives, and how it had given us an understanding of what is most important in life....I forgave Shavod because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart. Such an attitude would have extended my injury to my soul, hurting my wife, son, and others even more. It’s bad enough that the physical effects are permanent, but at least I can choose to prevent spiritual injury.”

Thank God that very few of us will experience what Steven experienced. His superhuman act of forgiveness should show us that if we open our heart to God’s grace, we too will be able to forgive those who have hurt us and set our lives on the road to freedom. 

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