Thursday

He Murdered my Uncle


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I didn’t know his name until the day he murdered my uncle.

Early one morning, a neighborhood feud between the two men escalated into a firefight. Courtroom testimony told us later that my uncle's murderer kicked down his front door and methodically shot him—twice in the ankles, twice in the knees, and once in the heart. 

He never spent a night in jail.

Freed on bond because he was an “upstanding citizen,” the court cleared him of all charges on the basis of self-defense. He went back to his wife, his home, and his job while our family picked up the pieces. We shampooed the blood from the carpet, but nothing could cleanse the horror from our minds.
 
On morning walks with my young daughter, I avoided the street where his man lived. Only a few blocks from my own, I couldn’t bear to see the evidence of life as usual at his house. It stood in stark contrast to the shuttered windows and empty driveway of my uncle’s. Only a strip of grass separated their property, but an eternity separated their souls.

After a few months I resumed my familiar route, which led me past his house. I was determined he would never steal another thing from me. Sometimes as I walked by, I would see him leaving for work or returning home in the evening. Some days he mowed the grass, on others, he sat on the front porch and read the newspaper.

Bitterness began to grow in my heart. What right does he have, I asked myself angrily, to live as though nothing has happened? Doesn’t it matter that he killed a man? Why should he go about his daily life while my uncle will never again laugh, love, work, or play? His sons have no father, nor did he live to see his grandchildren.

The sin of bitterness, along with its cousins, hate and anger, flourish when nourished and cherished. It began to grow deep roots and bear poisonous fruit. 

One night, unable to sleep because of the thoughts swirling in my head, I sought comfort in the Scriptures. My Bible fell open to the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  As I read the verses describing the rich man’s torment, I realized that while my uncle’s murderer had escaped earthly punishment, no fast-talking lawyer would ever be able to protect him from the justice that faced him in eternity. 

“Don’t begrudge his life here on earth,” I sensed the Lord saying, “it may be the only heaven he ever knows . . . 

“And if it weren’t for the grace of God," the Holy Spirit whispered, "this would also be true of you.”

Suddenly, instead of bitterness and resentment, I felt an overwhelming sense of pity for this man—this man who so desperately needed a Savior. 

Just like I had.

“Tell him,” the Lord said. “Tell him that ‘very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’” (Romans 5:7-8).

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Because of safety concerns, I knew I couldn’t knock on his door and tell him about Christ, so I did the next best thing. I shared my heart in a letter. I expressed the pain his actions had caused our family. I told him how bitterness had stolen my joy and dogged my nights. I described how God had saved me from an equally sinful nature, and how he extends this forgiveness to all men. And I offered my own forgiveness. “Because God has forgiven me, I forgive you.”

I’ll probably never know if my uncle’s murderer received God’s gift of salvation. That’s not my responsibility. My responsibility was to tell him. What he does from there is between him and God.

Now when I walk past his house, instead of thinking angry, bitter thoughts, I pray for him. 

I hope, one day, my prayers will set him free.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Is there someone you need to forgive today? Don't wait. Eternity may hang in the balance. 

 








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28 comments:

  1. Hi Lori - I felt this way about my brother-in-law and his wife as they had and are still doing us much harm and have split our family. I hid away from them and did not want to expose any of my life to facebook or in any other way. I even blogged with my initials. I also resented that their lives just seemed to carry on. God also gave some awesome scriptures but the one that comes to mind here is "Prov 29v25: The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever leans on, trusts in, and puts his confidence in the Lord is safe and set on high." I was so mad at myself, because I had set a trap for myself in fear of them and what they might do with any information about me and my life. That ended there and then and I now blog and facebook openly, with God as my only editor of what I say and do in those spaces. Funny thing is, they have all gone into cyber hiding. Trusting Him always
    God bless, great post
    Tracy

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  2. Tracy,
    I'm so sorry that you've been the victim of harm. You're right, fear often becomes our greatest enemy when we encounter a situation like you mention. I am comforted by two verses, among many others: "Greater is he that is in you (me) than he that is in the world," and "Thou will keep him in perfect peach whose mind is stayed on Him." Finally, "if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed!" I am so thankful, that through forgiveness, we don't have to be in bondage any more. Thanks so much for visiting,and for sharing a little bit about your story. God bless!

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  3. Very powerful testimony, Lori! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Powerful indeed. Praise God for freedom that only He can give.

    Falen

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  5. Lori, This is really a powerful story and one which would naturally have a huge impact on your life. I wonder...did we walk by this man's house that day I took a walk with you? Thanks for sharing this and the wonderful way that God grew you through it.

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  6. Wow - I am at a loss for words. Praise God for opening your heart and spurring to action and helping you take that action. I don't know if I would be as obedient to God's tug on my heart.

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  7. Thank you. This is something that I am personally struggling with in my life. It's very difficult to forgive when someone has hurt you so deeply. I had my heart ripped out last fall and while I have forgiven one of the parties I am still struggling to forgive the other. In fact, for several months my mind had obsessively wondered about ways to hurt that person. I began praying a few months ago for her because I knew the thoughts were unhealthy and sinful. I can't say that I have forgiven her, but I know Christ is working in my life and heart and healing me so that someday I can. Thank you for the encouragement and hope to know that I can do this through the strength of our Heavenly Father. I do feel pity for her, and pray for her salvation. At first I did it for selfish reasons, but I know now that God is calling me to. I hope to someday have that same peace and forgiveness you experience in your tragedy.

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    1. Tammy,

      I"m so sorry for your pain, but so thankful that God, the healer of our hearts, is at work in your life. It is a beautiful thing. It reminds me of the quote that says, "When you choose to forgive someone, you set a prisoner free. And then you realize that the prisoner is you." As you continue to pray for this person, God will change your heart. It's important to remember that even though you have chosen to forgive her, you're still going to feel the hurt and pain from the experience for a long time. That doesn't mean you haven't truly forgiven. It just means you are human, and humans hurt. Take those hurts to Jesus and let him heal them. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. THis is one of my favorite pictures of God from Isaiah 61: "He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. . . to comfort all who mourn,. . . to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." May God be all that and more to you today :)

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  8. Your words speak volumes! It is no easy task to forgive someone who has hurt us so badly, but when we do, it is our hearts that are freed! Forgiving someone releases us to continue living! Blessings to you and your family!

    In Him, Joan

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    Replies
    1. Amen, and Amen, Joan! thanks so much for stopping by :)

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  9. Wow, thank you for sharing such a personal story with the Thrive @ Home community this week!

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  10. Gosh, you never know what others have been through. It was brave of you to share.

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  11. What a great post, thanks!

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  12. Powerful Testimony, Thank you for sharing!!

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  13. What an amazing and beautiful testimony. Love and forgiveness is so powerful... and your testimony displays both.

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  14. What an amazing testimony for your daughter as well. I found you at Teach me Tuesdays and I'm really glad I decided to click on your link. Have a wonderful day!

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  15. Thank you for sharing this very personal experience and how you were obedient to the Lord. Thanks for linking up with WIP!

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  16. WOW, just wow :) This is so powerful, and so inspiring. Thank you for sharing it on my Blog Hop :)

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  17. Thank you so much!! This was really a good post...and I appreciated the comments too. You made some good points and I must consider whether I am bitter or not over some 'things' in my life. I think I am not, BUT, we can be deceived. Good point that Tracy brought out concerning using just initials to blog.

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  18. Lori...today's sermon at church shared the story of a father who practiced forgiveness towards a man who murdered his daughter. He visited him almost weekly, ministering to this young man until he got saved. It was years but God was faithful to his prayers and heart of forgiveness for this young man. Forgiveness is so powerful. Thank you for sharing your story at WJIM this week. Blessings.

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    1. Oh...this post is the reader's choice this week. I'm glad to feature you and your testimony.

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  19. Such a powerful message... thanks for sharing and being an amazing witness to His grace and love. Blessings!

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  20. Oh Lori... such a heartbreaking but powerful story of God's truth. Thank you for sharing with the heart+home community. will be featuring your story tomorrow.
    - lauren

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  21. Thank you for sharing your struggles so openly. It's encouraging to hear how God works in others lives when you are struggling with a similar situation. Forgiveness is never easy. Blessings to you.
    Annette

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