Jesus tells His children of grace to forgive. Jesus makes it serious business. He gives us this counsel in what has been called The Lord’s Prayer.

Yet forgiveness is hard at times. There is so much injustice in our spiritually fallen world. However, God’s grace can see it through.

This reminds me of a Thanksgiving season when my family was swindled out of thousands of dollars by a first-class con artist who was dying of a slow-moving cancer. I befriended this young, skinny fellow as he lay in a hospital bed with tubes in his arms.

“If I could only have a piece of homemade apple pie,” he said one morning when I made a pastoral call. It was in short order that John had his apple pie – the whole pie.

And so it was that over months of visiting him that he and I became fast friends – more glued than I had wished later. Nevertheless, in naivete, over time I handed over monies for investments to this self-proclaimed financial wizard.

He claimed to have all sorts of money connections. But that was all a lie.

It turned out to be a very long and sad story. Near to the close of our friendship, he was placed in my home for several days’ stay in order for him to relocate for further rehabilitation before he breathed his last.

It was then in the middle of one awfully dark sleepless night that it came to mind that several factors related to me by John simply did not add up.

The next morning, I confronted John with my quizzing regarding this and that. In an instant, he turned into a bizarre creature – fierce and unbridled. Then I knew that I had been had – royally.

I gave John his breakfast, then told him I would be back at the house within minutes. I had an errand to run at the church nearby.

I phoned the police. In minutes, a plain-clothesman was in my living room, questioning a bathrobed John seated on my sofa. By noon, John was behind bars. But I was out of my money.

My mind was reeling. My body was numb. My family was taken aback at what we faced come Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. How could all of this have happened to us when simply going out of our ways to minister to a young fellow dying of cancer?

But it did happen.

Then came Thanksgiving Day itself. As I thought of our own festivities – the comforts, luxuries of our culture, food upon food platters to satisfy the most hungry, relatives and friends gathering for celebrations – I thought of John in the county jail.

“John,” I greeted him.

In shock, he lifted his head, looking into my face as if in unbelief. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“I thought that I would visit you today. You know, have some prayer and then read some from the Psalms, like before. After all, today is Thanksgiving and you have no one to be with you for this special day.”

To my amazement I discovered a new part to my heart. There was simply no rancor present. None.

“I will be praying for you, John, whether I see you again or not.” And with that, I waved him good-bye.

Within days, he was moved out of state.

Yet to this day, I must admit that that Thanksgiving has become the most remembered one in all my life. I don’t try to figure out the reasons for that, except to start to understand that it was the opening up of a new room in my heart. Really.

With that, I learned also that it is a healing which flows in two directions – to the one forgiven and to the one who extends the forgiveness.

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