By M. Dean Register

Medical authorities frequently champion the physical and emotional benefits of forgiveness. Dr. Amit Sood, renowned resiliency expert and former professor at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, contends that unforgiveness damages our health and suffocates us emotionally.

So why do we find it so hard to forgive? Why does it take so much holy grit?

Kitchen Tune-Up

One reason is because we misunderstand it. Forgiveness is not condoning an offense. Forgiveness is not a magic wand guaranteeing behavioral transformation; we can forgive, but we can’t coerce a favorable response. And forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is about replacing hurt with grace so that our remembering is void of retaliation and revenge.

As Christ followers, we have been too excessively forgiven by Him to withhold offering forgiveness to others. There is no salvation without forgiveness. We can never enjoy a right relationship with God unless we confess our need for His grace. At the cross, Jesus atoned for our sins and provided for the forgiveness we offer to others. Forgiving others flows from the forgiveness we have experienced from Jesus.

I was a young pastor in Gulfport when news spread about the murder of a beloved Biloxi couple, Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, Margaret. After years of investigation by state and local law enforcement and the FBI, Mike Gillich, a Dixie Mafia kingpin, confessed his role and revealed the trigger man’s identity.

While Gillich was serving his sentence, a friend of mine built a relationship with him and often shared the forgiveness Jesus provides. Years passed until one day my friend pressed Gillich to
decide if he wanted to surrender his life to the only Savior who could remove his guilt. An awkward moment followed. Gillich stared at the floor, then at my friend, until he humbly bowed his head, begging Jesus to forgive him and take over his life.

Several years later, when Gillich had served his sentence, my friend called to ask if I would baptize Gillich. He said Gillich had occasionally listened to me preach on TV.

I remember meeting Mike Gillich at a baptism pool. He looked frail. Gone was the swagger that once accentuated his profile. I held his hand as he gingerly stepped into the water. A man who had been known as a coldhearted criminal declared his faith in Christ. He slipped beneath the water, giving testimony of a transformed life. Some people wondered if Gillich’s conversion was genuine. I think it was. He died a few years later. A man who had lived with a condemned memory died with amazing grace. Only Jesus can forgive evil that has no reason with a redeeming love that has no limit.

We all need forgiveness. We all need the outrageous mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is always more forgiveness in His grace than there is sin in our lives.

Excerpts from this article are taken from the book “Holy Grit: The Will to Persevere,” Westbow Publishing, by M. Dean Register, 2023. Used by permission.

Pro-Life Mississippi