There are some tragedies in life so horrific, they shake us to the core and force us to our knees.
And when Mark Strand learned his precious granddaughter, 7-year-old Athena, was found dead – one can’t imagine the anguish he experienced.
It turns out, a FedEx driver had abducted and killed her. But instead of spewing hate at the man who destroyed his family, Mark demonstrated the most radical act of forgiveness – and wait until you hear the details.
It’s true, the Bible commands us to forgive – always.
Even when we don’t want to. Even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t know how to.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14
Many people often apply this passage to the driver who cut them off in traffic…
… or the family member who had a bad day and snapped at them on the phone.
But when Jesus talked about forgiveness in the Bible – He leveled up the challenge and told us to forgive our enemies – and leave the vengeance to Him.
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:17-21
But we also see Jesus living out forgiveness against the very men who nailed Him to the cross.
So when Mark found out the devastating news that his granddaughter was killed – his faith was put to the test.
In a gut-wrenching Facebook post, Mark wrote about the struggle he faced with either feeding his flesh which was naturally filled with hate and rage – or listening to the gentle voice of the Spirit telling him to forgive.
“I can’t quiet my mind and I have to share this. A friend just asked me the other day if I believe God speaks to people? I happen to know He does, as He is speaking to me now. This flesh, this man that I am, is angry and I want 5 minutes alone in a cell with the psycho that took our Athena away from us, but there’s a soft gentle voice in the back of my head telling me I need to forgive him,” Mark wrote on Facebook.
“This flesh man, wants that psycho to burn in hell for all eternity, yet that gentle voice continues to tell me, I need to forgive him. This flesh man hopes he remains blind and deaf to the message of salvation and never sets foot in the same heaven that I know in my heart my darling Athena resides in now and yet, that gentle voice persists. Why you ask?
“Because Hate is a powerful force that will take root in your soul. God wants to protect us all from that hate. Hate is the gateway for the Evil we see growing in the world today. If you stood that man before me right now, because of the hate that’s trying to root itself in my mind, I would probably kill him.
Then that hate would root itself in my heart and I would be destroyed. That gentle voice is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to me right now. He’s reminding me that my savior Jesus, willingly laid Himself on a cross and died in my place to reconcile me to God the Father, but also that He did that for All of Us, even this man that my flesh so Hates at this very moment.”
It’s one thing to “say” we believe in the Bible, but it’s another thing to live it out.
Mark Strand is an incredible example of what it means to demonstrate radical forgiveness because we love our heavenly Father above all else.
Enduring tremendous grief and suffering, Mark could have let the hate and anger fester within his heart until it won.
But instead, he turned it over to God – knowing vengeance belongs to Him and that He will repay every deed accordingly with His perfect justice.
There are other Christians who have led by the same example – choosing to forgive in the most excruciating circumstances – like the teen girl who forgave the man who killed her father.
As we read God’s Word, may we too ask God to help us radically forgive those in our lives who have harmed us so that the world may know we are truly disciples of Jesus.
What are your thoughts on Mark choosing to forgive the man who murdered his granddaughter?
Are you inspired by his radical forgiveness?
You can post your answers to our Facebook page and join in the conversation with other believers from all around the world.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17
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