Terry Lane’s testimony was recently posted by Michael Basham on his website. It was a very inspiring testimony and also included a discussion about forgiveness which really spoke to me. I have had many experiences within the body of Christ where I witnessed and even experienced issues related to unforgiveness.
Below are comments made by Terry Lane about forgiveness.
“The disciples went on to listen to the very words of God through the very Son of God Himself. They on one occasion asked Jesus how many times we should forgive each other. It was suggested possibly seven times? Jesus’ answer was, “I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.” This, we and out son looked up last night and we counted what until seventy times seven would be and it adds up to four hundred and ninety times so we concluded that we should forgive each other no less than four hundred and ninety times.”(Terry Lane)
I completely agree with Terry Lane on forgiveness, but unfortunately I rarely see Christians and Christian leadership practice Jesus teachings on forgiveness. In the past I have had a bit of a temper and I’ve said and done things that I’ve later regretted, and I’ve also treated people the wrong way and I admit I’m not perfect. I remember on one occasion I did make some mistakes while involved with a particular Christian fellowship, and even though I apologised and genuinely repented I was shunned and excommunicated from fellowship. It was a covert excommunication and shunning, because even though I was told I was forgiven I was no longer welcomed to any fellowships or Bible studies. The phone no longer rang and I was no longer invited to anymore fellowship by this group. To be honest I wish they were just honest with me and told me that I was no longer welcome, but I was just covertly excommunicated and shunned. I tried my best to do my part in making amends with this group, I apologised to the members of this fellowship and I confessed that I had sinned against them. I also explained that I would make a dilligent effort to not sin within the fellowship, and that I was asking God to help me become a better person. I was told by the leaders of this fellowship that it was no problem and that I was forgiven. After they told me this I was cut off and I never heard from them again. I wish I could tell you I was not hurt by this… but I was. I have forgiven these people for excommunicating me because I know they are not perfect and neither am I. But I do pray there can be reconciliation in the future and I ask my readers to please pray for me also.
I also had a good friend who I was involved in ministry with. We used to preach and share the gospel on the city streets together. He had a powerful testimony as he got saved while in jail and he was a popular speaker at various churches around the world. He was a bar room brawler and got into a lot of fights and was often in jail. One day while in jail a visiting evangelist shared the gospel with him and he got saved; prisoners and the Warden of the jail were shocked by this mans coversion and even the Warden attended Bible studies with my friend in jail. He made a huge impact in prison through his genuine conversion and decision to follow Jesus. When he got released from jail he became a speaking sensation at various churches. He would speak at various churches and give his powerful testimony about how het got saved. He was a very popular speaker and person within the church. One day he made a mistake… he stole money from a church. From what he told me he was never forgiven by the church and was no longer welcome to any fellowship. After this incident he had nowhere to go and was an alone Christian. He was excommunicated from the churches and shunned. He was genuinely sorry for what he did and after he came home and cried about how he was now rejected he said God spoke to him, he heard the audible voice of God speak into his ear and God said, “I love you.” Even though God loved this man despite his sin, the church had rejected him and he was no longer welcome and there was no forgiveness from them. He had nowhere to go and he started preaching on a street corner with a piano where he sang Christian songs and shared his testimony with whoever would listen. I actually befriended this brother and I joined his street corner church. We would start: handing out tracts, singing, and sharing testomonies from 8pm untill midnight sometimes. There were other followers who joined this street preaching ministry and we seemed to be the rejects the church didn’t want, and somehow we had managed to find each other on the street where we could do something for God. We shared the gospel with people who probably wouldnt even be welcome at a church. I remember one guy in particular we shared the gospel with looked like he was about to die, he looked like he had a serious drug addiction and almost appeared as a walking corpse. But the gospel was shared with him and he recieved the message. He did not have much money but I remember he gave us one dollar and it was the greatest incident of giving I had ever seen. I would remember that man’s donation of a dollar for the rest of my life. We would also witness to drunk people and people coming and going from bars and nightclubs, and many of them were interested in Jesus Christ and took our tracts. Even though my friend was rejected he still wanted to serve God and God gave him that opportunity.
But I think its sad the church rejected him and that I also suffered rejection. Jesus calls us to forgive 490 times and if we are not following Jesus teachings on forgiveness how can we call ourselves disciples of Jesus? Many times within the body of Christ I have seen this type of rejection and unforgiveness. If a person is causing major problems in a fellowship, then I can understand that for peoples safety and well being the person may need to be removed. But if that person realizes they sinned and they come to the leadership and say, “I realize I have sinned and am genuinley sorry and I want to do the right thing please forgive me,” then according to Jesus that person should be forgiven and be given another opportunity to fellowship. In my experience most churches and Christian groups write people off completely after one mistake. This should not be the norm within the body of Christ but unfortunately it is.
We all deserved hell because we sinned against God and God gave us a second chance. Should we not give other people a second chance or even a third chance? Jesus says we should give them 490 chances. We all fall short of God’s grace so let us pray that we can have God’s grace to forgive others and give them the second chance they deserve.