Unimaginable horror. Violent crime. A painful and lifelong reminder of a heinous encounter with evil. These are the tenants of Vicky’s story. Her friend, Joni Eareckson Tada, shared the details with us tonight from stage.
In the wake of a broken marriage, Vicky went to a warehouse looking for a job. Instead, she found a man with a plan to do her great harm. As part of an attempted rape, Vicky was shot and dumped off at the hospital. Her injuries left her a quadriplegic.
This is the story that Joni used to paint the background for the subject of forgiveness. The sins committed against Vicky are incomprehensible. I found myself wanting to drop my eyes to the floor as Joni was telling us about her to deflect the injustice she endured away from my heart. And yet, Joni reported that Vicky has totally and wholeheartedly forgiven her attacker. She is not pining for justice by the system. She is not bitter that it does not come. She doesn’t keep pointing the finger. She does not replay the tapes of that encounter over and over in her mind, imagining that he was the one who was hurt. In fact, she prays for the soul of her assailant.
How can that be possible?
Joni showed us the answer from the story of Uriah. Remember that King David slept with Uriah’s wife and ordered Uriah’s death in the cover-up. Joni asked us to consider the response of Uriah’s father, who most certainly battled down emotions like bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness.
“If you were the father of Uriah the Hittite, you’d be thinking, ‘Hold on here. Let me get this straight. This man sleeps with my daughter-in-law, murders my son, and he says, “I have sinned,” and that’s it?’" Joni said. “Where is the justice in that?! God is letting him off the hook.”
But God didn’t let David off the hook for the murder of Uriah. God put himself on the hook. He personally saw to it that justice was served, because centuries later Jesus Christ died for the murder of Uriah.”
Now that makes my eyes drop, my knees shake, my palms sweat.
In the face Christ’s forgiveness and His unfathomable justice carried out on the cross, how dare I white knuckle the offenses committed against me? How dare I work to pin to the ground by withholding my forgiveness?
Joni said it this way, “Are there sins that have been committed against you? Sins about which you feel resentful, indignant, maybe even bitter? Think about this: No one ever offended you more than you’ve offended Jesus. No one has ever harmed or abused or wounded you worse that your abuse of Christ. The apple of God’s eye turned brown with the rot of your sin.”
How could Vicky forgive a man who planned to rape her, shot her, and left her in a wheelchair? She recognized that forgiveness was the only reasonable response from someone who has been forgiven of so much by a loving Savior.
In an email to the True Woman attendees, Vicky encouraged us to take these steps when offended.
1. Release the offense.
2. Forgive the person.
3. Forget it. Forget it. Forget it.
4. Then love the person. Love/pray them into the kingdom.
5. Go on with living.
That’s not an easy list, but Vicky knows it’s a possible one. Wherever you sit reading this, you can look at that list and choose one of two responses. Will you drop your eyes and avoid the Truth that you are called to forgive all offenses because you have been forgiven? Or will you look at it head on and dare to ask, “Who am I trying to keep on the hook with my unforgiveness?” Then take them off because of the God who hung willingly for you.