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A Remarkable Story of Forgiveness

Although expressions of forgiveness do not always require the forfeiture of penalty or restitution, authentic forgiveness does require the relinquishment of vengeance by the offended, and it does seek the reformation of the offender.

Immediately following the model prayer, Jesus emphasizes again the importance of both the granting and the receiving of forgiveness. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mt <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />6:14-15).<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Jesus taught his disciples to forgive, but he never told them that forgiving would be easy. Recently, an editorial in the Montgomery Advertiser shared the following remarkable story of forgiveness:
 
The family of Lynda Taylor, who was killed by a truck driver who had been behind the wheel for 20 hours straight, had every reason to seek the maximum penalty when the driver pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Two years ago, a tractor-trailer rig driven by Billy Turnbow plowed into Lynda Taylor’s car near a construction zone on I-65 near Prattville, killing her. She was eight months pregnant. Her twin 3-year-old daughters were injured. They have since recovered. But instead of pushing for a harsh sentence, the family urged the judge to be lenient on the driver, who has a wife and two young children.

Bryan Hancock, the brother of Lynda Taylor, said: “Lynda’s children have lost their mother, and we couldn’t find a constructive reason for the Turnbow children to lose their father. Mr. Turnbow had no intention to harm anyone. We thank him for his apology.” Harold Hancock, Lynda Taylor’s father, is a minister at FirstBaptistChurch in Montgomery. He said: “We are a family whose faith is important to us. We have a deep, abiding faith in our Lord, our God, and our Christ. We had to forgive Mr.Turnbow, just as Christ has forgiven us.”

Many people think they believe in the concept of forgiveness, or at least say they do when they study it in Sunday School. But Lynda Taylor’s family clearly lives it. It’s also an object lesson for those of us who struggle to forgive others for the day-to-day slights that always come in life. If the Hancocks and the Taylors can forgive following their huge loss, surely we should be quick to forgive lesser harms.

Although expressions of forgiveness do not always require the forfeiture of penalty or restitution, authentic forgiveness does require the relinquishment of vengeance by the offended, and it does seek the reformation of the offender.
 
Receiving forgiveness from God is the act of internalizing God’s grace. Extending forgiveness to others is internalized grace in action.
 
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.