Is anyone ever beyond forgiveness? Before you say “no”, let me share a story with you.
Known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer was no stranger to heinous and vicious crimes. He was, to put it mildly, a brutal serial killer. He was also a sex offender who committed rape and murder, and chopped 17 men and boys to pieces. He stored all the human body parts he had dismembered in a refrigerator. After he killed his victims, he would have sex with the corpses. He was ultimately caught and convicted and sentenced to 16 terms of life imprisonment.
It’s one thing to believe that we can be forgiven for offending someone with our words or taking what is not ours, but to do what Dahmer did- no way! For most people, if their loved one had been one of Jeffrey’s victims, forgiveness would seem impossible. Would you ever tell someone who lost a loved one to his gruesome actions that they needed to forgive him? Probably not.
There is only one person who comes to mind who not only spoke of forgiveness but also handed it out freely. Jesus never wronged anyone. He was the greatest son a parent could ask for, the most faithful friend anyone could have, and the best stranger you could have the pleasure of meeting.
His life didn’t end so well. Doing no harm to anyone, he was slandered and beaten, the beard pulled from his face, and thorns put on his head. When the accusations of his wrongdoing didn’t hold up, people lied some more and made things up in hopes of bringing an accusation against him that would stick. The authorities didn’t find any fault with him. But, with the persistence of his accusers, King Herod finally gave in to them.
Jesus’ sentence was the worst possible kind of death in his day. But death alone would be too easy. He was first given 39 lashes against his naked body. The whip was no ordinary leather belt. The tips of the cords had embedded within them nails, glass, and other sharp objects that would claw at his flesh. One lash would be enough to send a cry around the globe, but 39 of them?!
Afterwards, he was sent to a hill, carrying his own cross. When his body couldn’t carry it anymore, due to his weakened state from his beating, the soldiers had someone help him.
Once he made up the hill he was nailed to the wooden cross. Nails piercing through his flesh. People continued to mock and humiliate him. Right before he took his last breath he uttered something remarkable. Looking down at his perpetrators and then up to his Father he uttered, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
They don’t know what they are doing?!
How can he say that? They knew what they were doing: they were killing him, they were ending an innocent life.
After what humanity did to Jesus, he still had love and forgiveness for the people. What the people didn’t realize is that they didn’t take his life when they nailed him to that cross. He gave his life to them and in exchange he gave humanity hope. Jesus told his disciples earlier that, “No one take it (life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). That he did. After three days of being dead, he arose, returned back to life.
After his resurrection, amazing things happened. He offered forgiveness to the very people that killed him. He offered forgiveness to you and me. We were in fact the perpetrators who killed him. The Sin that we possessed in us was the reason that he died.
So, I will ask you again. Is anyone ever beyond forgiveness?
God forgives the worst of the worst. Remember Dahmer? God forgives people like him, too. Dahmer even became a believer in the end. His testimony is recorded in an interview. While in prison, reading a Bible, he put his faith in Jesus and was water baptized by a Church of Christ pastor.
The horrible things Jeffrey Dahmer did to his victims and their families were forgiven by Jesus, who was also a victim of the brutal actions of humanity. If a guy like Dahmer can find forgiveness in Jesus, so can you. There is nothing that you can do that is beyond God’s forgiveness. This is scandalous forgiveness. This is grace.
With that in mind, it makes sense why Jesus commands us to forgive others. After all, Jesus was our victim. We caused him to suffer immensely. What can someone do to you that you haven’t done already? If you have put your faith and trust in Jesus as your savior, you must always strive to remember how much he has already forgiven you. Even the sinful things you will do tomorrow are already forgiven!
This is the scandal of God’s forgiveness.
Keep it because it will help you forgive.
Remember: accept God’s forgiveness by putting your faith in Jesus, and pass on God’s forgiveness to those that have hurt you. Be the light that points to the One that is eager to forgive and grant eternal life.
Question: Why do you think it is so hard to forgive those who wronged us, or even to forgive ourselves, for the things we have done?