Summary: The ability to forgive is the ability to recieve forgiveness.
Last Tuesday, April 19th, this country observed a very difficult anniversary, and for most of us it passed by without a thought. It was April 19th 1995 that we suffered the atrocity of the Oklahoma City Bombing. As I was thinking about our sermon today I ran across a story from that event that I would like to share with you today.
Bud Welch lost his 23-year old daughter, Julie, in the blast that destroyed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in all. In a story entitled, "Where Healing Begins" from a 1999 edition of Guideposts Magazine, he recounts the extraordinary personal journey to forgiveness that began for him on April 19, 1995. "From the moment I learned it was a bomb," Bud writes, "I survived on hate." His anger was focused on Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and like so many others, Bud wished for their speedy conviction and execution. When he saw McVeigh’s father on television a few months after the bombing, however, Bud’s emotions began to shift for the first time. He remembers thinking to himself, "this man has lost a child, too."
A second turning point in Bud’s journey came when he revisited the site of his daughter’s death in January 1996. Bud spotted an elm tree near the place where Julie had always parked her car. Despite damage from the blast, the tree had survived and even sprouted new branches. "The thought that came to me then seemed to have nothing to do with new life," he writes. "It was the sudden, certain knowledge that McVeigh’s execution would not end my pain." Bud’s advocacy of the death penalty for McVeigh ended soon after, and not without drawing notice. He began receiving invitations to speak about his evolving feelings, and one invitation arrived from Buffalo the home of McVeigh’s father. Bud knew it was time to meet.
On September 5, 1998, Bud Welch found himself in the home of Bill McVeigh, a "blue collar Joe" just like him. He also met Bill’s daughter, Jennifer, who reminded Bud of Julie’s friends. "We can’t change the past," Bud told Bill and Jennifer, "but we have a choice about the future."
When I read that story I thought it would be the perfect way to begin our discussion today of Forgiveness. But I know from my own life that forgiveness does not always come easily if it comes at all. Usually we respond more like the man who was on his death bed and afraid to go into that good night harboring a hatred for anyone.
He had his son go and find the man with whom he had a fierce feud for years and asked him to come to his home. When his enemy arrived the sick man quickly made overtures of peace and stretched out his hand. He enemy was so moved that he also made overtures of peace and accept the mans outstretched hand. They talked for 30 minutes of sorrow and forgiveness and feeling that it was finally over the visitor turned to leave the room. But before he made it out the door the sick man said, “Sir if I get over this the feud stands!
I wonder how do you handle volatile situations? Do you believe that your heart would be able to feel for the family of a man who did not feel for yours like Bud Welch, or does the feud still stand?
Remember last week when we talked about sins that we avoid and sins that we choose to gloss over. The sin of Unforgiveness is so often glossed over because we like the power that we feel we have when we refuse to forgive. But in reality the one who dies when forgiveness is refused is the one who refuses to forgive. When it comes to the issue of forgiveness we all have a choice. As a matter of fact we all make one of the following five choices.
I will not forgive
Now some of you might take exception with me and say it’s not a matter of I will not but it’s that I can not. But let me give you a gentle reminder that God does not require the impossible. We read in Mark 11:25-26
"And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. "But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."
I’m going to forgive you, but in the future I’m not going to have anything to do with you.
This is such a benevolent attitude carried by our modern martyrs. You are worthy of my forgiveness but if you were on fire and I had a glass of water well you better start rolling to put those flames out.