Focus on Forgiveness

Dr. Henry Alloway, Jr. Reverend

In the Bible we read, "All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God." In the Lordís prayer we pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us." It further says in Matthew 6, "If you forgive, your Heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven." Somewhere in those passages, we should be able to figure out that God fully intends us to be forgiving. What we may not have figured out is the kind of blessings we are missing when we fail to forgive.

When I was Pastor at St. Johnís Methodist Church in Port Arthur, Texas, a curious thing happened. My lay leader learned that I had available to me, "The Birkman Method," a questionnaire that would help people focus on different aspects of their personality. He wanted me to bring it to our church as he was teaching a leadership course, and he wanted then to take it and learn from its concepts. The problem for me was that in order to use it, I had to fill it in and get the results for myself. That seemed a bit scary to me. I was not sure that I wanted to know much about my inner life. I suppose I was afraid of the unknown, afraid this would reveal something terrible about me.

With the gentle pressure applied by my lay leader, I got the results, talked with Dr. Birkman about the results and how to interpret the information for our people. The leadership group then filled in the questionnaire and I talked with them about what it revealed about their strengths, their needs and their weaknesses. As news spread from that group to others in the church, within six months I had 75 people come to me to fill it in and talk about the results. My personal counseling load became so great that I had to begin meeting with the people in groups. Before long, I had 48 different people meeting with me once a week in four different groups. People were eager to find answers for long and difficult problems. Some found far more that what they thought they would find when they began.

One man in particular had one of the most unique experiences I have ever encountered. He was a member of our church, but not very regular in his attendance, a fine man with a good family, but not one to be greatly concerned about church attendance. I announced in our church newsletter that I was going to start one of these groups, and I was quite surprised when he showed up at the appointed time and place.

I explained to them the first night about what we would do as a group. We would use the "Birkman Method" for insight. We would use the book Prayer Can Change Your Life, by Parker, and St Johnís for inspiration. We would use the four Gospels, the teachings of Jesus, for correction. Each group meeting would last one and a half-hours. We would begin with prayer and end with prayer, but the rest of the time would be spent in sharing our scores and the understanding of what they meant for each of us. In this process, we were able to see the relevance of scripture and it is guidance for us in relationship to life. I also told them that although the sessions would last for an hour and a half, that I would be available after each session for any individual that wanted to stay after the meeting and talk to me.

We had met for several weeks. The groups had become quite well adjusted to one another. They were able to communicate pretty well by that time. In the group meeting, that night there was a discussion about forgiveness. One man seemed to have quite a bit of trouble with the concept of forgiveness. He seemed to think there were some justifiable reasons for unforgiveness. We struggled as a group trying to deal with this.

When that group concluded that evening, that man stayed to visit with me. I kept giving him the things that Jesus said, "Forgive unto seventy times seven", "Forgive and you will be forgiven", and any other scriptures that I could use to help him see that forgiveness was vital for our life. He did not tell the group of me what caused his problem with forgiveness, but it was obvious that he had a real hang-up with forgiveness.

The group meeting had ended at 9:00 P. M. It was after midnight when he left my house, but by the grace of God, he had become convinced that forgiveness was necessary. When he came back to our group meeting, he shared a story with all of us that was heart warming, exhilarating, inspirational, and deeply moving.

He started out by telling us about his important job with the Texas Refinery in Port Arthur. He was in charge of a unit that could be dangerous and in charge of a number of men. He told how he had developed a skin condition on his feet that seemed to defy healing. He had gone to six different medical doctors including several skin specialists. All they could do was to no avail, and his feet would not heal.

He then told us about the night that he had become thoroughly convinced that he must forgive. Then he told us his problem. His mother and father had owned a large rice farm. He lived on one side and his brother lived on the other side of them. They both helped their dad with the farming. When the mother and father died, they left everything they had to his brother. He literally hated them for it.

I need to stop here and say what a horrible thing it is to harbor unforgiveness. For anyone who has unforgiveness, it means that they have been hurt somehow, some way, at some time or another. It is bad enough that you have been hurt, but if you are harboring unforgiveness, you are allowing that person to hurt you in a far deeper way. Your spirit is being oppressed by the unforgiveness. It sometimes takes a heavy toll even on the physical body. Do not let unforgiveness destroy you.

Back to this manís story. He went on to say that he left my house that night convinced of what he had to do; he knew that he must forgive his mother and his father. He did not know how to go about it, as father and mother was both dead. He decided to get on his knees before God, and he said this prayer:

"My heavenly Father, I come to You tonight to ask you to forgive me for having unforgiveness in my heart toward my father and my mother. I would like them to know that I forgive them, but I cannot go to them, but You can. I ask You to let them know that I have forgiven them".

He told us then that a warm sensation began to occur in his physical body. It started in his head and went all through his body. The thing that amazed him and us the most was that his feet were almost instantaneously healed! He never had any more trouble with them.

I do not understand what happened, but I do know the facts in this case. In my mind, I am quite sure that forgiveness made a great difference in this manís life.

Questions to think about:

  1. Have I ever recognized any wrongdoing in my life?
  2. If the answer to number 1 is yes, did I feel the need for someone to forgive me?
  3. If the answer fi number one is no, am I able to face the fact that I am not perfect in every respect?
  4. Am I willing to forgive people for wrong things they have done to me?
  5. If I am having problems with forgiveness, who can I talk with about the situation?
  6. Am I willing to open my heart to God, to share with Him the deep feelings of unforgiveness that I have harbored?
  7. Can I truly forgive and not wish any negative thing to happen to those I forgive?

This is an excerpt from Dr Henry Allowayís manuscript titled

Focus: A Laymanís Guide to God and an Interpersonal Relationship with God, Self, and Others from Chapter Two.

It has been used in group settings by Dr Gerald Easterly and others, in some of the Texas menís prisons to cause change in their lives. It has also been used in the group type settings mentioned in this chapter in the church.

You may forward this to anyone you think it would benefit, and if you do not want to receive anymore of these, let me know. Please keep it entirely intact if you forward it or print to use. It is copyrighted work, and to be published in a complete book.

If you have any questions for Dr Alloway, or prayer requests, please feel free to send them to me, and I will get them to him. You may also contact him directly at 936-441-4333, or mail 1912 South Seventh St Conroe, Texas 77301, or PO Box 661, Conroe, Texas 77305.

God bless you richly, Rev Ginny Alloway Baker