Georgia’s first governor, James Oglethorpe, had a slave who stole a jug of wine. On learning the thief’s identity, the governor attempted to recover the bottle. He soon learned that the slave had already consumed the contents. Outraged the governor ordered that the he should be beaten.
John Wesley went to Oglethorpe to intervene on behalf of the slave. He was shock to hear the governor’s response, “I want vengeance. I never forgive!”
Wesley replied, “I hope to God, Sir, you never sin.”
The slave stole from Oglethorpe; Oglethorpe stole from himself in the manner of all unforgiving, vengeful people. They steal their own peace and well-being; they lose the possibility of a restored relationship with all its joy and benefits. Above all of that, they have the potential of stealing from their own immortal soul.
Wesley knew that Jesus linked very closely God’s forgiveness and our willingly to forgive others. All who have truly experienced God’s forgiveness have an urge to also forgive. Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” (Matt. 6:12). There are many ways to rob our self of eternal value, but the quickest is to be unforgiving. Vengeance and justice belong to God. He expects us to both forgive and forget.
Roman philosophers taught that mercy was a disease of the soul. Jesus taught that it is a defining mark of the Christian. As we deal with our fellow sojourners, let us do so with a forgiving spirit. And, that forgiving spirit will become a redemptive spirit. Such a spirit has rewards of its own. “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7).