A simple concept that’s not always easy | Faith | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | March 11, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: March 7, 2018 at 8:48 am
A couple of months ago, Scott and I blazed through the first two seasons, all 20 episodes, of “The Crown” on Netflix. Once we got started with it, it was hard to turn it off.
One episode in particular (Season 2, Episode 6) has been lingering with me. In it, Queen Elizabeth meets Billy Graham. In light of Rev. Graham’s recent death, it’s been on my mind even more so.
Queen Elizabeth was struggling to forgive her uncle, the Duke of Windsor. She’d only been queen for a couple of years. Twenty years earlier, her uncle left Britain at the behest of the government due to his reasons for abdicating the throne less than a year into his reign. (Her father then became king, which is how she eventually ended up with the crown).
The Duke of Windsor was seeking to return to Britain. He needed the approval of Queen Elizabeth, the Sovereign, to do so. She struggled with the decision because she had been made aware of some German diplomatic papers that were uncovered at the end of World War II. These files apparently provided incriminating evidence of the Duke of Windsor’s sympathetic association with Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. The British government had tried to suppress the documents, but their release was inevitable. She had great affection for her uncle, but also great disdain for his treasonous behavior that threatened their entire country.
That apparently was around the same time Billy Graham and Queen Elizabeth became friends. Rev. Graham had been holding evangelistic crusades in London and she sought him out as counsel on forgiveness. She asked him, “Are there any circumstances where one can be a good Christian and yet not forgive?”
She couldn’t bring herself to forgive her uncle and queried Rev. Graham about it. In their conversation Rev. Graham reminded her that no one is beneath forgiveness and that even Jesus, while he was dying on a cross, asked God to forgive those who had hung him there to die. Finally, he told her, “The solution for not being able to forgive: one asks for forgiveness oneself, humbly and sincerely. And, prays for those one cannot forgive.”
That’s what I couldn’t stop thinking about. Forgiveness is Christ’s example. Not being able to forgive someone who has wronged me is something I need to ask forgiveness for. Not forgiving someone who has wronged me makes me guilty too, and therefore in need of forgiveness. The good news is that God promises that He will always offer it when we ask.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
While the subject of forgiveness was still in the forefront of my thoughts, I read the testimony of Rachael Denhollander, a former USA Gymnastics Team member and sexual assault victim, regarding team doctor Larry Nassar, who is accused of sexually abusing more than 250 young girls over several decades. Rachael, too, spoke of forgiveness as she directed her words to her abuser, “And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may some day experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.”
The Bible is pretty clear on the subject: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
It’s a simple concept. Simple, yes, but not always easy. It’s humbling and embarrassing to ask for forgiveness when you mess up. It can be even more agonizing when you’re the one that needs to extend forgiveness to a criminal, an abuser or a traitor.
We recently had an invasion of our home and privacy. Thankfully, we were not home at the time, but every single piece of gold jewelry that we owned (that we weren’t wearing at the time) was stolen. No single piece was extremely valuable, but collectively it was all worth more than our homeowners’ insurance would cover. Every necklace, ring, and pendant had been a gift.
Because of the sentimental attachment to the jewelry, my feelings were really hurt. They still are. It took me a couple of weeks before I actually got angry about it and, when I finally did, I took it out on everyone around me. I was not a happy person to be around and regretfully, showed little evidence of forgiveness.
Now I find myself thinking about what I would say if I ever come face to face with the person that smashed my door in and stole my jewelry. I can’t, yet, say for sure what words I would use, but following the advice of Rev. Billy Graham, I’m praying for forgiveness. I’m praying for the burglar. I’m praying that both of us will know that merely for the asking, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7
I’ll be praying that because, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
Our sins are forgiven because of the riches of God’s grace.
That’s the crowning glory I want reigning in my life.
(Nancy Davis attends First Baptist Church of Walterboro, where her husband Scott, is the minister of music. Reach her at email@example.com.)