I met Fred Starkewski in my third grade. A farm kid like myself, we soon became playmates and friends. Fred was unusually likeable, consistently generous and always considerate of others. Much to his frustration, he was afflicted with the most severe case of stuttering I’ve ever encountered. Some of the school children made fun of him, while others tried to joke about it. Fred just good-naturedly ignored it or laughed it off … so everybody thought. The truth was, I knew that it bothered Fred.
There is something about growing up together, with it’s endless childhood games and adventures, that binds friends together for life in a way that friendships developed later in life seldom do. After we finished school, Fred found a good job in Winnipeg and I started a physics program at a university in the same city. Throughout our twenties and thirties, we continued to fish, hike, or just hang out at each other’s places and talk about every topic under the sun.
Sometimes, the subject swung to God and eternal life. I tried to explain that our eternal destiny hinges on whether we accept God’s gift of eternal life and forgiveness, by putting our trust for these things in Jesus Christ. I have no idea why Fred thought his wrong doings were so bad that God could not forgive him, but he was absolutely convinced of this. I did my best, over the years, to persuade him that God does care for him and that He would forgive Him, but I failed.
Exactly one day after I arrived back home from a trip to North Korea, I received a call from Alvin, a mutual friend. Fred had driven his car to a concrete dam across the Vermillion River near the town of Dauphin, removed his glasses, carefully placed them on the concrete – and then dove off the dam into eternity.
Although it was more than 25 years ago, I still feel grief when I think of Fred and his last moments. From time to time, a haunting question arises in my mind. Did Fred die because I fell short as a friend? Granted, Fred must take responsibility for his actions, but I still feel that I let him down. Can God forgive me for a failure that may have resulted in a death?
Recently, I read of a woman named Rebekah, who reached a point in her life where she dearly desired eternal life and a personal relationship with God, but there was a problem. When she was a young teenager, she had gone through with an abortion. The horror of what she had done grew stronger in her mind over the years, to the point where she thought God could not possibly forgive such a sin.
So … can God forgive Fred and Rebekah? Can God forgive me? What about you?
There are two ways to deal with our moral violations. The choice of today’s politically correct society is to deny that sin exists. If you choose that option, then there is no forgiveness. The other option is to call sin for what it is – a moral violation against God. If we choose that option, will God forgive you and I?
The answer is, “Yes! A thousands times yes!”
If Jesus Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity, took all the sins of humanity upon Himself to fully satisfy the requirements of perfect justice, then there is no limit to what He can and will forgive, provided you choose to accept His pardon and put your faith in Him for eternal life.
God’s forgiveness is the most freeing thing I have ever experienced. Rebekah went on to eventually know that God’s forgiveness was overwhelmingly sufficient to make her pure again … a complete wiping away of all guilt and punishment, as if it had never happened. We may still have to face consequences in this life for the things we do, but we can have complete freedom in the unquantifiable forgiveness of God.
Jesus once said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.
The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.
So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36