Most of us are familiar with a bell tower. In order to ring the bell, a rope has to be pulled. For the bell to stop ringing, we must let go of the rope.
Corrie ten Boon, best known for hiding Jews during the Holocaust, was later captured and sentenced to hard labor in various concentration camps. She alone, from her family, survied to tell her story. Time and again she was confronted with her need to forgive those who had so brutually tortured her and her family.
Years later, after hearing a sermon on forgiveness, she often used the imagery of a bell in the tower to recount her own struggle with "letting go."
“'Up in that church tower,' [the pastor] said, nodding out the window, 'is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops.'
“I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive someone, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” — Corrie Ten Boom, Guideposts Classics, November 1972)
When we choose to forgive, it means we're finally willing to let go of the rope. The ringing may continue, but over the course of time, it will eventually stop, as long as we make the choice to not pick up the rope again.
That said, what area(s) in your life are bringing you to the verge of exhaustion from continuing to ring the bell?
In what situations is God asking you to put down the rope? When are you tempted to pick up the rope again?
As you face your own battle with forgiveness, ask the Lord, as the Apostles did, to increase your faith!
"So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'” (Luke 17:3-4, NIV).
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Colossians 3:13, NIV).
To the thief on the cross Jesus said,"Today you will be with me in paradise."
That's grace. All that thief had was a prayer, but that's all it took. He had no time to be baptized, or do good works, or turn over a new leaf. He was on a cross dying. That's grace.
Most people celebrate the forgiveness of the thief on the cross, but how about Jeffery Dahmer? He was a serial killer. The Milwaukee Monster was convicted of 17 murders. Eleven corpses were found in his apartment. He dismembered them. He consumed them. He was sentenced to life without parole.
A few months before an inmate murdered him, Jeffrey Dahmer became a Christian. He repented and said he was sorry, profoundly sorry for his sins. He was baptized in the prison. He began reading the Bible and attending chapel. His conversion was genuine. His sins were washed. His soul was saved. His past was forgiven, and that bothers some people.
As Max Lucado expresses the hearts of many, "God is kind, but He's no wimp. Grace is for average sinners like me, not deviants like [him].”
Can Grace really extend to the worst of us? What about people in the Bible? Abraham lied, but he is in heaven. Mosss murdered, but he's in heaven. David was an adulterer, but he's in heaven. Paul arrested Christians and had them killed, but he's in heaven.
The thief on the cross is in heaven, and so is Jeffery Dahmer.
Rather than being bothered by Grace being extended to the worst, we should marvel at the magnitude of God's love.
If they can be forgiven, we can be forgiven. Whatever you've done, you can be forgiven. Nothing is beyond God's grace, because His grace is greater than all our sin. Learn from the thief on the cross. Forgiveness is just a prayer away.
"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise'” (Luke 23:42-43, NIV).
IF GOD CHAMPIONED CANCEL CULTURE…
That is not to say that God “winks” at ignorance (Acts 17:30), indulges willful sin (Rom. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:26ff), or encourages walking in darkness (1 John 1:6ff). But, God is the God of the second (third, fourth, etc.) chance. He is perfectly patient (2 Pet. 3:9) and fully forgiving (Heb. 7:25).
Our world needs the message of redemption now more than ever!