Saturday, April 15, 2006

For They Know Not What They Do

"I forgive Anthony Warren. What he done to me was wrong," she said. "But I still forgive him."

Real forgiveness probably hurts a lot. It can make you cry. But ultimitately, "Doing the right thing makes you happy."

This is the wisdom of 5 year old Kai Leigh Harriott who was paralyzed from her chest down 3 years ago when Anthony Warren fired a gun at the house where Kai Leigh was sitting on the porch. That bullet shattered Kai Leigh's spine. Warren pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to 13-15 years in prison. It was during these court proceedings that Kai Leigh spoke her words of forgiveness to the man who shot her.

At 5 years old, a lot of what Kai Leigh knows about forgiveness she learned from her mom, who not only spoke gently with Anthony Warren in the courtroom, but actually embraced him. She embraced the man who shot her little girl. How many of us could do that?

And if you watch video of Kai Leigh on the Boston Globe website, you can see something else there, something that comes from within her. She is strong. She is happy. She is not a victim. She is a five year old girl. And she bounces, smiles, and dances with all the energy that a five year old kid is supposed to have, a testimony of the unconquerable vigor of the human spirit, and of the mysterious power of forgiveness to transform lives.

You remember Jesus's response to the soldiers who executed him? He forgave them. That probably hurt. It may have even made him cry a little bit. But still he forgave them. Because it was the right thing to do. This week, a 5 year old girl in Boston understands that better than anyone.


Michael said...

"Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants, You have PERFECTED praise!" Indeed.

It is amazing how Christ can manifest Himself. Thanks for the reminder, Andy.

Kansas Bob said...

Your post reminded me of the following story from German Concentration Camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom:

It was in a church in Munich where I was speaking in 1947 that I saw him--a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

Memories of the concentration camp came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment of skin.

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: "A fine message, fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!"

It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard there. But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein--" again the hand came out--"will you forgive me?"

And I stood there--and could not. Betsie had died in that place--could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it--I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses."

Still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"

For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.

John said...

Thanks for the story, Kansas Bob. That's extraordinary.

Stephen said...

That is a great story kansas bob, but I wonder about forgiveness. Would he have been able to forgive if the man on the other side was not a Christian or not repentant for his past actions?

When Jesus forgave from the cross the guards who had probably just beaten him were still mocking him. There was not the slightest bit of apology in their hearts.

Is forgiveness possible when it is one sided?

dabeckztr said...


"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" Luke 18:17

thanks for pointing out this story, i believe that Forgivness is a KEY to living the Christian lifestyle!

(PS: check out my blog!)