I was moved by a story I came across the other day via Faithwire about Shelby Houston, the teenage daughter of a police officer who died in the line of duty. Her father’s name was Richard Houston. He was a 21-year veteran of the Mesquite Police Department. He was shot and killed responding to a disturbance at a local supermarket.
They recently held a funeral, and in tears, Shelby had this to say:
“I remember having conversations with my dad about him losing friends and officers in the line of duty. I have heard all the stories you can think of, but I’ve always had such a hard time with how the suspect is dealt with. Not that I didn’t think there should be justice served, but my heart always ached for those who don’t know Jesus, their actions being a reflection of that.
“I was always told that I would feel differently if it happened to me. But as it’s happened to my own father, I think I still feel the same. There has been anger, sadness, grief, and confusion — and part of me wishes I could despise the man who did this to my father — but I can’t get any part of my heart to hate him. All that I can find is myself hoping and praying for this man to truly know Jesus. I thought this might change if the man continued to live, but when I heard the news that he was in stable condition, part of me was relieved.
“My prayer is that, someday down the road, I’d get to spend some time with the man who shot my father — not to scream at him, not to yell at him, not to scold him, simply to tell him about Jesus.”
Is that not amazing? She was relieved the man who murdered her father was still alive! Why? So she could share the gospel with him! How can we not marvel at the power of God working in our souls to empower us to such a degree that we can not only forgive a murderer but also show love and grace by sharing with that person the gospel?
I’m reminded of Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, Eph 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Eph 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Eph 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Eph 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself…
The context of Eph. 1:7 is praise to the Father for the many ways He has showered us with all His gracious blessings in Christ and for the fact that He planned to do all of this for us before the world was ever created. How can we not, like Paul, praise God the Father for the simple means of forgiveness and all the blessings He’s given us in Christ?
But see, before we were ever created, God the Father was always prepared to forgive us. Before we ever sinned, He had always wanted to forgive us. Even when He knew that we’d be at enmity with Him because of sin, His desire was always reconciliation, because of His great love for us. In fact, He loved us so much He planned a way for us to obtain forgiveness of all our sins before He even created the world, and out of that love, He chose to make the means of our forgiveness so simple, by faith alone, by trusting alone in His Son’s act of atonement on the cross at Calvary. Then He blesses us beyond comprehension because of the riches of His grace.
God the Father isn’t some distant deity that’s doesn’t care. He is personal. He is our Father. He loves us beyond words. He planned for our means of salvation before the world was created. He is prepared to forgive and wants to forgive because He wants that intimate relationship with each one of us. He planned to shower us with grace before He ever created us. His Son’s sacrifice, on the one hand, satisfied the necessity for justice for every wrong we’ve ever done, which had to be carried out because He is holy. On the other hand, His Son’s sacrifice was the fullest expression of His love for us, which He planned before the world was ever created. He even kept this age of grace a secret (Rom. 16:25-26) because He wanted nothing and no one to thwart everything He intended to accomplish for us, in us, and through us.
I don’t know whether to praise Him for His love or His sheer genius with how He carried all of this out.
The bigger point is this – God the Father always wanted to forgive us. He was always prepared to forgive us. And He had always planned for a way to forgive us before we ever sinned, which brings us to a wonderful principle: as the Father always desired to forgive and was always prepared to forgive, so should we. Not just to forgive, but to love, as well, and to show others grace by sharing the gospel, just as God the Father showed grace to us. Praise God forevermore!