When I came home from work yesterday, my dad was watching Cold Case Files on A&E. They were covering the Green River Killer that plagued the Seattle area many years ago. He was able to commit more than 40 murders over the span of 20 years before DNA evidence came along and they were able to catch him. Part of what made this case so infuriating / mind boggling was the fact that in his interviews, the killer showed that he was fully aware that what he was doing was wrong…and he had no remorse. Needless to say, there were many families who were hurt by the actions of this man, and they were ready to lash out when he had his day in court. I watched as mother, sister, father, and friend railed at this guy. He just stood there with an indifferent, maybe even defiant look on his face.
Then one man took the stand (I believe he was a father of one of the victims), and he said something different. He was a taller man, with a huge Father Christmas beard, and steady voice. Instead of yelling, he spoke slowly with his voice full of emotion and intention. He said something very close to: “You make living out my faith very hard. Because God just doesn’t tell us to forgive some, he tells us to forgive all. So I want to let you know, sir, that you are forgiven.”
When the camera cut back over to the defense stand, gone was the hard walled demeanor of the defendant. Instead, he was hiding his face and wiping tears away from his eyes. One man had the courage and grace, not to excuse the actions of this vicious man, but to extend a message of forgiveness in spite of it. The father still carried a burden of grief, but you could tell that he was not bound by it. His forgiveness had given him freedom, and it was overwhelmingly apparent that the same forgiveness stirred something very deep in the heart of the Green River Killer.
The moment didn’t last very long. The next person who took the stand yelled and railed and name called….and the defendant was once again a picture of cool calculation and indifference.
But for a moment I saw the power that genuine unsolicited forgiveness can have on the hardest heart.
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psa 32:1)
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)