I’ll admit, today’s story is very difficult for me to post. As I read Martha Rogers’ testimony, numerous emotions surfaced and to be honest, I strongly contemplated sending her an email telling her I couldn’t post her story. I believe to do so would cause her pain, yet I am equally concerned her testimony may hurt some of my readers. Her testimony raises a key question well worth addressing: Is anyone beyond grace? Now, before you answer the evangelically correct, “Yes, for God’s arm is mighty to save!” let me color it with the added question: What about the serial killer or pedophile? Now the question becomes more difficult, doesn’t it? Not because our view of God has changed, but because our emotions are charged.
Someone I care about very deeply was forever changed by a pedophile, and although this individual has experienced great healing thanks to God’s mercy and grace, many of her wounds remain, thirty-five to forty years later. As I read today’s submission, she was the one I thought of. Yet, I need to remember the truth that launched the series–there is freedom in forgiveness. As I mentioned in Freedom in Forgiveness, yes, we forgive out of obedience for God, as an active demonstration of our love for Him and in gratitude for all He’s done, but we also forgive to free ourselves from the root of bitterness that threatens to destroy us.
Another reason I chose to post this testimony is because it reveals an even greater truth: God’s grace extends to all, even the “worst of these”. No one is beyond forgiveness and no life is beyond hope. And when God gets hold of a life and a heart, that person experiences radical transformation. He doesn’t just help them “do better”. He changes them from the inside out, taking away their old heart and replacing it with a new heart. I look forward to hearing your comments, and welcome all, even the angry ones. I know many of you may be greatly offended by this post, and for those of you standing on the other side as the offended, I am so very sorry. Please know it is not my intent in any way to hurt you.
Forgive As the Father Forgave by Martha Rogers
Forgiving others for wrongs they do is one of the most difficult things that many Christians have to do. When we or those we love have been deeply hurt, embarrassed, or humiliated by another, forgiving is the last thing on our minds. God’s forgiveness is unconditional, and quick to be given when we ask Him, so why then is it difficult for us to do the same?
I had this lesson brought home to me in a very real and meaningful way with my brother. Ever since he was a teenager, he’d been in trouble with the law. He was in and out of juvenile institutions until he reached adulthood. What happened to him in those places is too horrible to even describe now, but we didn’t know those things then.
When I married, he was at my wedding, but not many months later, at age fifteen, he was once again in detention. When he was finally arrested as an adult on drug charges and sexual crimes, I gave up on him and turned my back on him.
Off and on for the next ten years he tried to rehabilitate, and we’d once again have contact, but I didn’t want him around my sons. His lifestyle led him in the wrong direction that completely alienated me from him. My mother and father were deeply hurt by his actions, but they never gave up on him and supported him whenever they could.
However, at one point I decided I’d had enough and wrote him out of my life. I no longer had a brother and never talked about or mentioned him to anyone. To me, he no longer existed. That went on for many, many years until the year our oldest son planned to be married. Two weeks before the wedding, my mother called to tell me that he had been arrested again. This time he’d taken a young boy and left town with my dad’s credit cards.
His name, crimes, and arrest were all over the front pages of the newspapers and on TV news reports. I was thankful my last name was now different and no one would connect him to me. No one did, but God knew.
Very early one morning, mother called to tell me that he’d been visited in prison by her pastor and that Johnny had made a confession of faith and asked forgiveness from the Lord. I told her that was impossible and didn’t want to talk about it.
Later, as I was praying and getting ready for my day, a feeling came over me that I cannot describe. It was as though I was suddenly completely alone. After seeking out our chaplain at school and telling him about my brother, he handed me his Bible, open to a verse in Matthew, and simply said, “Martha, you know what you have to do.”
I read the words of Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Tears filled my eyes and I sobbed to my Heavenly Father and asked his forgiveness for my actions, and then forgave my brother and let all the bitterness flow from me.
That feeling of being so alone disappeared and once again the arms of our Lord wrapped around me and assured me that no matter what my brother had done, he had been forgiven. I wrote a letter to him and told him what had happened. He was convicted as a pedophile and sentenced to sixty years in prison. Since that time we have corresponded regularly and since our parents’ deaths, I’ve been the one to support him and make sure he has what he needs while in prison.
The ironic thing is that my friends didn’t turn away from me in disgust when they learned about John, but surrounded me with love and compassion and admiration. My testimony in the months since then has touched many lives and became the basis for my writing theme of forgiveness and reconciliation. Johnny is still in prison, but he is also a son of our Lord Jesus Christ and my brother.
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Martha’s book credits include the novella, Sugar and Grits and A River Walk Christmas, as well as the historical romance series, Winds Across the Prairie. She had also written seven Bible studies, contributed to compilations by Wayne Holmes, Karen O’Conner, and Debbie White Smith. Martha has also written devotionals in several anthologies including recently released Blissfully Blended, Devotionals for Step-moms from Barbour. Martha is currently working on another series, Seasons of the Heart. Book one, Summer Dream, will released in the summer of 2011. Martha sings in the choir at her church and is a co-leader for a First Place 4 Health group. She loves to scrapbook when she has the time. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending football and baseball games when one of them is playing.
At age twenty-six, Caroline Frankston is certain life is passing her by in the town of Barton Creek. Matthew Haynes has made no indication of his feelings for her, so she decides the time has come for her to move away from her family and friends for a fresh start. Once in Oklahoma City, Caroline is fascinated by the many opportunities there and begins moving on with her life. Meanwhile, Matt realizes his true feelings for Caroline and plans to tell her on her next trip home. When Caroline’s train has an accident and she goes missing, Matt sets out in search of her, wondering if any chance of spending his life with Caroline has disappeared.