A Christmas “Gift:” The Power to Forgive

The power to forgive others is a gift that has taken hold of many hearts and many homes where faith in Jesus is central.

power to forgive

Unfortunately, in our culture, there are a lot of negative images associated with faith. Our movies and TV shows portray faith as a thing that turns people into monsters. In Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Django Unchained, we meet one of the Brittle brothers, with Bible verses safety-pinned to his overalls while he maliciously whips a slave. Thankfully, Django stops him before he can follow through with the beating. But the impression left on the audience is that Christian faith leads to racism and violence. Yet compare the movie’s image with the one we are confronted When church members forgave Dylann Roof, the young white man from South Carolina who shot nine African American Christians after they welcomed him into a Bible Study at their church. It is clear, for these people, Christian faith led them to forgiveness and mercy, even in the face of racism and violence. The power to forgive others is a gift that has taken hold of many hearts and many homes where faith in Jesus is central.

You can see it in the outpouring of forgiveness the Amish community showed in 2007 when a man went into their schoolhouse and killed their children. NPR reported that “people around the world have been inspired by how the Amish expressed forgiveness toward the killer and his family.” Their forgiveness even inspired them to donate money to the killer’s widow and his three children. It is a remarkable piece of evidence that should cause us to pause and ponder.

You can also see the power to forgive others surfacing in the life of Corrie ten Boom,67 who survived the Nazi concentration camps. After the war, Corrie encountered one of the guards from the Ravensbruck concentration camp where her sister had died. She and her sister had been sent there for hiding Jews in their home. He came up to speak to her after a public speech she gave on forgiveness. She writes,

I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze…

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….

“Help!” 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 the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.

A handshake is a powerful act of forgiveness, and yet in October 2019, America witnessed something even more profound—a hug. When Brandt Jean took the stand to face the police officer on trial for killing his brother, he must have had similar feelings to Corrie ten Boom. When we read her internal struggle, it makes the events that unfolded in that courtroom even more astounding.

Brandt Jean took the stand to share his victim-impact statement with officer Amber Guyger, who had shot and killed his brother Botham Jean. Botham was twenty- six years old and lived in the same apartment complex as Officer Guyger. He was in his own apartment eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream when Officer Guyger entered and shot him. She testified that she mistakenly entered his apartment thinking it was hers and believed he was a burglar. The prosecution said the trajectory of the bullet showed that he was either getting up from his couch or cowering when the shot was fired.

His brother’s statement during the trial was unprecedented. After telling his brother’s killer that he forgave her, he invited her to give her life to Christ. He said, I forgive you…I personally want the best for you. I wasn’t even going to say this before my family, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do — to give your life to Christ.

This was shocking enough. But then he asked the judge if he could give her a hug. The judge acquiesced and the hug was heard around the world.

This Christmas season, as you consider evidence that makes Christian faith both rational and believable, don’t overlook this claim that it gives the power to forgive others.

Isn’t this an interesting claim? And aren’t these astonishing examples of the human capacity for mercy and forgiveness? If Christianity is just wishful thinking based on blind faith, then how would you explain the power to forgive these peoples have found?

On the 6th Day of Christmas, your true love gave to you a belief system that can give you the power to forgive others.


This article is an excerpt from Rich McCaskill’s new book: Questioning Christmas: 12 Conversations for Skeptics, Soul-Searchers, and Thinking People Everywhere


Rich McCaskill
Rich McCaskill writes as one who has also wrestled with intellectual doubt around life’s big questions. He has served as a pastor in the Seattle area for the last 22 years where he lives with his wife, Erin, and their five kids, Elliana, Colby, Chloe, Kenzie, and Gabby. He holds an M.Div. from Regent College and leads philanthropic efforts such as the Christmas Miracle and the Ride for Refugees. He loves Ethiopian coffee, Aberlour, and the Seattle skyline at night.