Love and forgiveness go hand in hand—you don’t have one without the other. If you love somebody, you can forgive that person, any offense no matter how damaging. On the other hand, when you forgive another, change begins to take place in your own heart and you find yourself loving that person in the Biblical sense of the word; i.e., with God’s kind of love.
Years ago while I was active in prison ministry, I made the acquaintance of a remarkable woman who had given the ultimate in terms of forgiveness: she forgave the man who had killed a dear friend of hers.
This forgiveness didn’t happen overnight. Ida Curzon (name changed) returned home from errands one day to discover a grisly scene in the guest room of her home. Her young protégée had been savagely knifed, blood everywhere. The memory of that horrific sight haunted her for years, especially whenever she returned to the house.
Nonetheless, she continued her work in prison ministry. Years passed and Mrs. Curzon found herself in a maximum security facility in another state, conducting a seminar for the inmates about forgiveness. At the end of her presentation, a number of the men approached her to offer their thanks for the teaching. One man hung back until all the others had left and then approached with his hand extended to her. Ida relates now how her heart went out to this man who approached her so tentatively.
“He was so very timid,” she relates. “He looked like a boy who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “When I took his hand, he mumbled something I could barely hear. “ ‘I’m sorry, ma’am. You don’t know me but I was the one who killed your friend. I’m so sorry.’ ”
Tears gathered in my friend’s eyes as she continued telling her story to me. “At that moment, something happened inside me. It was as if a dam had broken and all the pain I’d stored up since that fateful day just gushed out. There was a love for this man that swelled so big there was no room left for the hurt.
I grabbed his extended hand in both of mine and whispered, ‘It’s okay. The Lord has forgiven you.’ And then I wiped away the tear that rolled down his cheek. “The strange thing is,” she continued to me. “I felt the most profound love for this poor man that I had hated for so many years. I praise the Lord that He brought the two of us together so that we could both be healed.”
When we forgive someone else their offense against us, we can be healed from the damages that offense caused. Our faith grows, our love for others expands and our walk with Jesus is perfected. Love truly covers a multitude of sins and love commands us to forgive our enemies. We do it for their sake, but we are healed in the process.