Sermon Illustrations

The Prison of Bitterness

Because we live in a world full of people that don’t know grace. It’s foreign to them. They don’t know it. And if they don’t hear about it and experience it from the body of Christ, they will never know it.

I first learned of this story from Max Lucado. Each week Kevin Tunell is required to mail a dollar to a family he’d rather forget. They sued him for $1.5 million, but settled for $936 to be paid a dollar at a time. The family expects the payment each Friday so Tunnell won’t forget what happened on the first Friday of 1982. That’s the day their daughter was killed. Tunell was convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving. He was seventeen. She was eighteen. Tunell served a court sentence. He also spent seven years campaigning against drunk driving, six years more than his sentence required. But he keeps forgetting to send the dollar.

The weekly restitution was to last until year 2000. Eighteen years. Tunell makes the check out to the victim, mails it to her family, and the money is deposited in a scholarship fund. The family has taken him to court 4 times for failure to comply. After the most recent appearance, Tunell spent 30 days in jail. He insists that he’s not defying the order but rather is haunted by the girl’s death and tormented by the reminders. He offered the family 2 boxes of checks covering payments until the year 2001, one year more than required. They refused. It’s not money they seek, but penance.

Quoting the mother "We want to receive the check every week on time. He must understand we are going to pursue this until August of the year 2000. We will go back to court every month if we have to."

The anger that family feels is understandable. And of course the guilty should not go unpunished.

But who’s in prison now?

No doubt they have suffered in a way that I can’t even imagine. But now by holding on to their anger, they are multiplying their suffering.

No amount of penance for the offender is going to ease their pain. The only healing available to them is to forgive.

Ephesians 4:31-32 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

From a sermon by Bret Toman, Anger, 1/2/2010

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