Where forgiveness begins
Have you ever seen the musical (or read the book) Les Misérables? It is, in part, about a convict named Jean Valjean who refuses to forgive the legal system that sinned against him, leaving him broke and broken. In his bitterness, Valjean decides to steal some silver candlesticks from a kind priest who showed him only love. The police catch him and are ready to bring the hammer of justice down on his head, but the priest defends Jean, claiming the candlesticks were a gift. Stunned, Valjean stares as the priest draws close to his ear and says in a low voice, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. . . . I withdraw [your soul] from black thoughts and . . . I give it to God.” I won’t ruin the rest of the story, but I will tell you that this absurd forgiveness changes Jean Valjean.
Forgiveness changes us too. Like that priest, Jesus has shown us grace. When justice would have locked us up in hell, far from God, Jesus leans in close and whispers, “I forgive you. I bled to buy you back and give you to God.” Paul writes, “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7).
Meditate deeply upon that gospel truth. God, for the rest of your life, will never let you go. He will never treat you as your sins deserve. He will always love you.
That kind of forgiveness never leaves a soul the same. Just ask Jean Valjean.