In April 1958 a young Korean student attending university in Philadelphia wrote a letter to his parents back home. After putting it in the mailbox he was brutally attacked by eleven teenage boys and died.
The city was outraged. The district attorney got authority to try the boys as adults so they could receive the death penalty.
Then something happened. A letter was received from the boy’s parents. It was signed not only by them, but by twenty of their relatives. It read: “Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible… be given to those who have committed this criminal action… In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released… We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ who died for our sins.”*
What a shocking and inspiring testimony about generosity of spirit!
Here’s something I’ve learned. Powerful forgiveness flows from people who have first received powerful forgiveness. That’s what is evident in that letter from the boy’s family. Christ had been generous with them, so they wanted to extend that generosity to others—even to criminals who had done them a horrific wrong.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his apostles to preach, heal and exorcise demons. “Freely you have received,” he said, “freely give” (verse 8). It’s the same principle. Since God has given freely to you, give freely to others.
Instead of having a spirit of generosity, we can have a spirit of animosity. When it floods our thinking, decisions and actions, perhaps that is because we have forgotten how Christ has snatched us from the flames of hell, death and darkness, and placed us safely in the eternal embrace of God.
Freely you have received, freely give.
–Bible quotes are from the NIV.
–*As told in: James S. Hewett, ed., Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1988), 213-14.