By Simon Baker, student news writer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Dr. Daniel Dickard shared the story at Campbellsville University of a girl who was kidnapped and murdered and years later after she received a letter asking for their forgiveness and detailing how he repented and turned his life to Christ in prison.
Dickard read from Matthew 18:21-35, the set of verses where Christ instructed Peter to forgive people and where Jesus shared the parable of the King, who had compassion by forgiving his slaves massive debts, but the slave did not forgive his former slave of the debts he owed to him.
Dickard said, “Forgiveness is a beautiful word, until there is someone to forgive.” He said how we “can hold on to that grudge” which would allow for it to turn into a “tumor of brokenness” or “you can let it go.”
Dickard said, “Forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt others who have hurt you.” He said Christ told Peter not to forgive “seven times, but seven times seventy.”
Dickard said, “The King in the story, represents God, and the servant in the story represents us.”
Dickard said, “Every time we sin against God, we are increasing our obligation towards God.”
Dickard said there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation. “It’s not keeping the commandments or going to church” but by accepting Christ as Savior because his “grace is flowing in.”
Dickard said the “story takes a turn” after the King relieved the slave of his debts. Dickard said, the first servant, said “there’s a man that owes me money.” The first servant is an example of someone forgiven and how “grace flowing in, but then vengeance flows out.”
Dickard stressed how “forgiven people forgive people.”
Dickard said there were numerous lessons to learn from the set of verses he read. The first is, “forgiveness is granted, not earned.”
He said, “There is someone in here this evening, that you’re holding onto a grudge, and you think by squeezing a person and trying to hold them accountable it will free you.”
“Forgiveness frees you even if others do not change,” Dickard said.
Dickard said, “When Jesus takes up residence in your heart, it’s not that you in your own strength that have the power to forgive but in Christ’s spirt and His heart living in you, you are able to forgive.”
Dickard shared the story of Dawn Smith who was a beauty pageant contestant who was stalked, but the perpetrator kidnapped who he thought was Dawn, but in fact, it was her sister, Shari.
Dickard said how Shari “wrote a letter to the family saying mom, dad, don’t let this situation, whatever happens, ruin your faith.”
Dickard said years later, after the killer sent several sadistic letters to the family, the sister “went to the mailbox one day and noticed there was a letter. It was from the man that killed her sister.”
Dickard said the killer wrote, “I’m so sorry, for what I put your family through, and, while in prison, I have found Christ. And I ask that you would forgive me. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but I ask, you’d forgive me.”
Dickard shared how the verse Ephesians 4:32 came into the family’s mind as they read the letter. The verse says, “Be kind to one another and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you.”
Dickard said there are three factual steps that you can do if someone has wronged you, and how you can move forward. The first step is to acknowledge the debt. The second is, calculate the debt. The last step is, to release the debt to God.
Dickard said, “Forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt others who have hurt you. And when you release that unto God, you allow God to handle the situation. And when you do that, you have evidence that you are a forgiven person.”
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that has enrolled up to 12,000 students yearly. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.