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The Grace to Forgive

"Daddy, come quick," shouted my four-year-old daughter. "Someone stole the presents from under the Christmas tree."

At first I thought that the children were playing on me. But I could see quickly that they were visibly upset. Apparently someone had come into our house while we slept, picked out some choice presents, removed the blanket that covers my favorite chair, and used it to haul away about a dozen or so gifts that were to be given to the children and to friends and family on Christmas morning.

To say that the children were angry would be an understatement. After my 11-year-old son, Johnathan, realized that among the gifts stolen were his brand new Nike sneakers, he stormed out of the house in tears.

I sat silent on my coverless chair, stunned and fuming. I had seen the children's Christmas special, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" dozens of times since childhood. But I never believed such a tale could come true. How do you forgive a person like this? How do I teach my children to practice forgiveness?

Because it is unnatural, we have to practice forgiveness, like any other discipline. According to Dr. King, "Forgiveness is not just an occasional act: it is a permanent attitude."

Later that day I put the question to my son. "How should we as Christians respond to the person who tried to steal our Christmas?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, Dad," he said. "Even though he doesn't deserve it, we're supposed to give him grace."

Sure, I knew that the words that came out of his mouth were almost the complete opposite of what he was feeling in his heart (I knew because I felt the same way). But I also knew we had to start somewhere. And if, one step at a time, our discipleship as Christians could include giving each other grace, if our children could learn and practice forgiveness as well as they practice praise and worship, if we could literally create a counter-culture of grace, then just maybe, as we all mature in our faith, our hearts could finally line up with our words.

And the world would have to take notice.

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