Summary: Many will fail to enter the gates of heaven because they are shackled to this world by chains of unforgiven sins--not necessarily theirs..

“ Forgive Us Our Debts”

Picture if you will; a man sitting all alone in a darkened prison cell. His elbows propped on his knees and his head resting in his hands. The man’s name is Charles Preston, and he has been on death row for the last seven years of his life for his part in the murder of the son of a high-ranking government official. Today, March 19th, 1976, he is totally consumed by his thoughts. You see, this is the day that Charles is to die for his crime. His execution is less than two hours away and, for the first time in his adult life, Charles is crying .

Let me tell you a little about Charles Preston. He was born into a lower middle-class family that was missing a dad soon after he was able to walk. His mother was not the most caring individual in the world, and for the most part Charles had to fend for himself. And, as he grew up, the only people that he thought he could trust or who cared anything about him were his hoodlum “friends” that he hung around with. Needless to say, he was in and out of juvenile correction facilities and prisons most of his life. He had no sense of direction nor purpose for his

very existence. Alcohol and drugs were his only comfort. Many times he would wish that he could pass out and not wake up again.

One night he and his “friends” were going to rob this rich kid that had carelessly wondered into their territory. Something went terribly wrong and the boy was killed in cold blood. Only two of the gang members were caught and Charles was one of them.

During all of the seven years that he was in prison, Charles was tortured by the memory of what happened that fateful night. He remembered the fear in the young man’s eyes as he desperately cried for mercy. But he was shown no mercy. Because of the pressure from his “friends”, Charles pulled the trigger. He vividly remembers the trial where he had to look upon the faces of the boy’s family--how he had to hear of all the pain and despair that they were now experiencing because of him. But what stuck in his head more than anything is the testimony of the victim’s father who happened to be a United States Senator. Barely able to compose himself on the witness stand, he said; “The death of my innocent son has caused me and my family tremendous grief and (pointing straight at Charles, said) I will not rest until I see ‘that man’ put to death!”

At this point Charles could not disagree. He had seen first hand the result of his actions and pleaded; “guilty as charged.” And, as a result he was sentenced by a jury of twelve to the gas chamber.

Over the next few years Charles wrote many letters to the Senator and his family pleading for forgiveness in hopes that this burden that he’d been carrying might be somewhat eased. But he never received a single reply.

But, back to March 19, 1976 where we left off with Charles in his cell only hours before his execution.... He was crying. Now, was he crying because he was about to be executed? No, he was crying out of joy because even though he was about to die, he had just been freed. You see, moments before, Charles had a visitor. The visitor was none other than that Senator. He came to tell Charles that he didn’t know how or why, but that very day he was finally able to forgive him and for some reason he just had to visit him and tell him personally.

One might say, I’m sure he was glad he’d been forgiven by the boy’s father, but he’s still only moments away from death---why is this condemned man over-joyed to the point of tears? Well, that takes us back a little farther,....for the last three months, Charles had been wrestling with something. You see, he was visited by a minister that briefly presented him with the gospel and left him with a small bible. The minister kept talking about how God loved him so much and that no matter what he had done, he could find forgiveness in Christ.

Well, this was something that Charles had a hard time identifying with, and no matter how good it sounded, he was not going to be taken in by some fairy tale. But, days went by and since he had little else to do, he began reading that bible. As he made his way through the Word of God, he found himself longing for the loving Father he never had, that was portrayed between those pages.

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Jeffrey Snyder

commented on Feb 19, 2007

Absolutely perfect-touched my heart to the core. It brings a new meaning on "bringing your tithes and offerings to the storehouse".

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