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  • Writer's pictureDavid V Burdick

Forgiveness

By David Burdick


Being only human and not fully cognizant of God’s thoughts and ways, it is easier to understand why Christ’s forgiveness may seem out of reach to a man who intentionally killed his son, than it is to understand why the same forgiveness may seem out of reach to a law student, who once cheated on her taxes to afford a downpayment on a used car. Only when we begin to embrace the fact that every sin is an equal offense to God, do we begin to recognize that, God’s forgiveness is independent of man’s ranking of another man’s sins (Romans 2:11-12, 6:23). Peter proclaims, “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). There is no sin greater than another and we are all held equally accountable. But for the grace of God, none of us are worthy, not one. Regardless of what we have done, the devil will always be there to plant a seed of doubt when we grow close to the acceptance of God’s forgiveness. Under the influence of Satan, any sin has the power to render us unworthy of forgiveness. For me, it was many sins, my death by a thousand cuts.



I joined the U.S. Navy when I was seventeen and before I turned eighteen, I was a member of a Navy Special Weapons Unit that chalked up female conquests like trophies. We were a small group of sailors that occasionally trained, and often partied with the EOD and the U.S Navy Seals. We were known on the boat as Dealers of Death and Destruction. We thought that we were men’s men but, in truth, we were not. One night in Olongapo, I was headed back to the boat, seeking to beat the curfew after an evening of drinking a local favorite known as Ginebra San Miguel. As curfew approached, desperate ladies of the evening that had been unlucky at securing a paying customer for the night would line the streets heading back to the Naval Base, still offering themselves in exchange for money. I was very drunk and down to my last U.S. dollar when a beautiful young girl walked up to me, clasped my hand, and held my arm like we had been dating for ten years. She said, “Come on Joe, I take you home.” It was common in those days for the locals to call Americans they didn’t know, Joe, after G. I. Joe. I immediately replied, “No, you don’t want to take me home, I’ve been drinking all day and I only have one dollar left to my name.” Her response was, “I take you home for a dollar Joe.” She was as cute as a button and persistent. She held my arm tightly, walking with me for another three blocks. As we walked, I learned that she was only fifteen years-old. I should have just given her my dollar, but I didn’t.


Two blocks from the Naval base, I conceded to go home with her. She led me to an area of town know as shanty-town. It was a group of dirt-floor huts fashioned out of scraps of wood and bamboo, behind the main strip and out of sight. As huts go, she had a nice one, bamboo curtains formed three rooms and the dirt floors were covered with mats. As we entered, her father slept in the entrance-way, in a hammock, along the outside wall of the bedroom. The bedroom was furnished with a wooden four-post bed, a matching dresser and a night stand. She led me to the foot of the bed and took off my shoes before pushing me back onto the bed. After doing what I came there for, I fell asleep. When I woke, the girl who brought me there was sleeping at the foot of the bed and her older sister was climbing into bed, no doubt to go to sleep, but I rolled over and kissed her. That is the last thing I remember before waking up in the morning, laying between the mom and the older sister, with the girl who brought me there still sleeping at our feet. When I returned to the boat, I bragged about sleeping with an entire family for a dollar.


Imagine the shame that replaced my bragging when my heart was opened by the grace of God to the desperation and shame of the father who slept in the hall, while out of love, his entire family devalued themselves so that they might have a dollars’ worth of rice to share the next day. This was the family that I took advantage of. I should have just given her the dollar and made my way back to the boat, but I didn’t. This was again, one of a thousand cuts that made me unworthy of Christ’s sacrifice. Only through God’s grace did I eventually realize that I am responsible for inflicting the suffering of Christ. It is as though I cracked the whip myself and drove the nails. If I do not accept Christ’s sacrifice for God’s forgiveness, His sacrifice will be for naught. With forgiveness, comes responsibility. God makes it clear, once forgiven, we must change our ways, lest we increase our portion of Christ’s suffering. If you are still walking in despair and harboring guilt, you have not embraced God’s forgiveness and the freedom that is your salvation. When we are washed clean by the lamb of God, we walk with Christ and start each day anew. Each day, we pray for the strength to walk in the path of righteousness. When we fail, we pray for forgiveness. Every transgression makes us responsible for more of Christ’s suffering; and so, we strive harder to stay on the path. We are groomed to perfection. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:8-12).


Having sins that are beyond counting, I have no hope, but for the hope of salvation through the forgiveness of God, as purchased by Christ. The prophet Jeremiah tells us, “Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall she cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). There is hope in Christ for even the seed that has been cast by the wayside. As we are reminded by Peter, it is by Christ that we, “…believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God… Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:21-23). If you believe, as God has told us through His Apostles, that our sins are equally weighted by God, you must also accept that forgiveness is also equally offered to both the man who killed his son and the law student who cheated on her taxes. The choice is black and white; humbly accept the mercy and sacrifice of God, the love that brings forgiveness, or cling to your sins, turn from God, and follow Satin to the gates of hell. 


I pray, be wise and fall to your knees, accept God’s mercy, accept His forgiveness and join us at the table that was set before you. It is where you will find the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). Coming to the table is not the end of your journey, it is the beginning.


Regardless of where you are in your journey, I pray that you have not grown tired of your search. While we are alive and before the final harvest when Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, there are no sins beyond forgiveness and no lost souls among the living. There remains time to be washed clean by the Lamb of God. The light of hope for forgiveness shines even in the deep recesses of hell. Surely those that have witnessed Christ storming the gates of hell, preaching the gospel for three days, and walking out of the pit unrestrained know that He is the Son of God and He was given power over death. Believing in the Son of God and knowing the price that has already been paid for the forgiveness of sins, do not these same souls now wait for the salvation of the Second Coming when the gates of hell will be swung open? Do they not wait for the final judgement? The jailer can no longer keep those who the judge will set free. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:12-13). No soul should be counted as lost until that day of the final harvest.


Christ holds us in the same esteem as we hold Him. If our Lord is important to us, we are important to Him. Jesus said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38). It is a great honor to know Christ. It is an even greater honor to be His sword bearer. For those who have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, who now embrace forgiveness and set at the table that has been prepared for you, I challenge you to pick-up the Word of God which is Sword of Christ and boldly defend the truth that is in Christ Jesus.


Let us pray.


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