North Santa Rosa

Living With Purpose

    There is an old cemetery where there’s a grave which has inscribed upon its headstone just one word— “Forgiven”. There’s no name, date of birth or death. There’s no epitaph, no eulogy—just that one word, “Forgive”. I have discovered, this is the biggest thing that can be said of any person, or written upon their monument, “Forgiven”. It’s also one of the biggest things a person can do—forgive others—for it indicates a spirit that’s akin to God.    I heard one of my fellow Army officers berating a subordinate. Among other things, the officer said, “Pay attention to what your doing. And remember I’m not a forgiving man!” That struck me.

    So, later when it was just me and the other officer, I said to him, “Captain, I hope you never sin.”    

    He said, “What do you mean, Chaplain? I sin all the time. What does that have to do with my statement?”

    I tactfully replied, “If you never forgive, you will never be forgiven.” A person who will not forgive, breaks the bridge over which they must pass.

    Forgiveness demands bigness of heart. “To err in human, to forgive is divine.” We can know how big forgiveness is when we read Psalm 86:5, “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.”

    Forgiveness is too big for little-minded people. That’s why many people, even Christians, are on the “outs” with others. They hold grudges and are motivated by malice and ill will. They are not yet big enough Christians to practice forgiveness. Instead of carrying tolerance and forgiveness in their hearts, they carry their feelings on their shoulders and revenge in their hands. As long as people live in the flesh, they are going to sin. That’s why Christians must learn how to forgive daily. We must practice it and depend on God for help.

    Why is forgiveness so big and important? Because many Scriptures teach us to forgive: (1) Christ example demands it (Luke 23:34); (2) The church at Colossae was taught it (Colossians 3:13); (3) The Golden Rule requires it (Matthew 7:12). We want those we sin against to be forgiving; therefore, we should forgive those who sin against us. It’s not a useful rule, if it doesn’t work both ways; (4) Love calls for it (1 Peter 4:8); (5) The seeking of peace requires it (Romans 14:19) Unforgiveness promotes strife and bitterness, but forgiveness makes for peace and pleasantness; (6) The example of the early Christians teaches it (Acts 7:60) As Stephen was being stoned, he prayed, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin.”

    An atheist once said, “If there be a God, why didn’t he help Stephen who prayed for his enemies as they stoned him to death?” Someone replied, “He did! By giving him grace to pray for his murderers.”

    There’s another principle concerning forgiveness. Forgiveness demands forbearance; the two go together. A mother sought Napoleon’s pardon for her son. The emperor said it was the boys second offense, and justice demanded death. The mother replied, “I don’t ask for justice. I plead for mercy.”

    The emperor responded, “But he does not deserve mercy.”

    The mother cried, “Sir, it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.”

    “Well, then,” said Napoleon, “I will have mercy.” And her son was pardoned.

    Forgiveness is an act of mercy, not justice. The forgiving and merciful spirit makes allowances for temper, training, education, or the lack of it, and endeavors to view offenders as generously as possible. An old man, once remarked, “I see that good people are not so good as I once thought they were and find that few people are as bad as their enemies imagine.”

• This bi-weekly column is written by Matthew Dobson. He’s a health educator for the State of Florida, U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain, and the Pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in the New York Community. His “Living With Purpose” Book series can be found and purchased on www. You can contact him by email:

Posted by on Apr 19 2020. Filed under Church News, Churches, Living With Purpose, Local, Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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