How did they forgive their son’s murderers?  

On Tuesday John Allen Chau’s body was spotted on an island in India’s Bay of Bengal.

He’d travelled to the Andaman and Nicobar islands to share Jesus with the isolated Sentinelese people. As he arrived, he was shot by a tribesman with a bow and arrow.

His family’s reaction? "We forgive those reportedly responsible for his death.”

We’re often used to hearing a family member of murdered loved one say how they could never forgive the ones who carried out the crime.

So the obvious question is: How was this family able to forgive such a horrific crime?

Huge Debt

We often get forgiveness wrong. We imagine that if we forgive someone, we’re saying that what they’ve done is ok. That it doesn’t really matter.

But that isn’t right. Things which don’t matter don’t need forgiveness.

Tim Keller talks about forgiveness in terms of a debt that is owed. He writes that when you forgive:

You are absorbing [a] debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out on the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death.

Forgiveness doesn’t come naturally. Who would naturally choose death? Surely only people who have been died for – who themselves have had their debt lifted.

Paid in Full

The parents of this young Christian missionary knew God’s forgiveness, so were able to forgive (Matthew 6:15). Their debt had been paid.

By forgiving John’s murderers, they aren’t saying his murder doesn’t matter. Their forgiveness is so amazing because it matters so much – because the debt is so huge.

And if this is possible for such huge debts, isn’t it also true for smaller ones? When someone says something hurtful or rude; when someone lies to you or speaks aggressively?

We forgive, because God first forgave us.