The Poison of Unforgiveness - June 23, 2018
James Collins: James Collins

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Ronald “Rusty” Woomer was the 244th person to sit in South Carolina’s electric chair. He started life in a backwoods town in West Virginia. As a child, he was beaten and abused by his dad. To escape his abusive father, Rusty quit school and left home at the age of thirteen. He became an alcoholic, a drug addict, and a criminal. By the age of 16, Rusty was sent to a home for juvenile delinquents. At the age of 19, he was given a three-year sentence in a state prison for stealing 14 cases of beer. When Rusty got out of jail, he went right back to the cycle of alcohol and drug abuse, and stealing to get more alcohol and drugs.

One night, Rusty and another hoodlum, Eugene Skaar, got stoned out of their minds. They walked into a coin shop. They robbed the shop and killed the owner. From there, Rusty and his buddy picked out a house at random. They went inside and murdered the elderly occupants, Arney and Earlene Wright. They robbed the house and moved on. Next, they stopped at a convenience store and robbed it. They kidnapped two clerks that worked at the store, Della Louise Sellers and Wanda Summers. Then, they took the women to a remote wooded area where they assaulted and raped them. Then, for no reason, Rusty shot them. Della Louise Sellers died instantly. Wanda Summers lived. However, she lost the lower half of her face to a shotgun blast. Rusty and Eugene left the women for dead. They checked into a hotel where the police finally caught up with them. Eugene Skaar shot himself rather than surrender. Rusty Woomer, drugged out of his mind, was taken into custody. The next day, shaking and still high from all the drugs, Rusty confessed.

While Rusty was there on death row, a Christian who ministered to prisons came by his cell and began to talk to him about the Lord. Rusty Woomer who had, as far as he could remember, never received a kind word from any human, began to listen to that Christian man. And Rusty Woomer was genuinely, gloriously, and miraculously converted. He got saved! He committed his life to the Lord Jesus Christ! Rusty wrote letters to the families of his victims asking for their forgiveness. He began to witness and he led other prisoners on death row to Jesus. He would sit and read the Bible for hours and hours. A few days before he was executed, he shot a video to show young people in school. He hoped that his story could keep them from following the same path of death and destruction that he had followed. He wrote out a final statement before he died. The last part of the statement reads like this: “I want to tell everybody that I’m fine. I’ve never known peace like I’ve known it in my final days on earth. I know some people say I got jailhouse religion. They’re right. I turned to Jesus in prison when I had no place else to turn. Words cannot express what He did for me. But He knows and that’s all that counts!”

In 1990, just before Rusty was taken to the electric chair, he received a letter. When he picked up the plain envelope, he trembled when he saw the return address. The letter was from Lou Hewitt. Lou Hewitt was the brother of Della Sellers, the woman that Rusty murdered. This is what Lou’s letter to Rusty said: “For years, I have hated you with all of my heart. I could have blown your brains out for what you did to my sister. I only regretted that you were in prison where I couldn’t get to you. But, I spent time in jail myself - fifty-six different times over the years. I felt like a failure, but then I became a Christian. The more I learned about being a Christian, the more I knew that I had to forgive you. I didn’t want to do it, but it got to the place where I couldn’t pray the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ It made me so mad. Now I had to forgive you. The ball was in my court. I prayed about it. God’s done a miracle in my heart. I forgive you. We are brothers in Christ. I love you.”

The point is: The Bible teaches that we are to forgive the way we have been forgiven. How you received forgiveness is the same way that you are supposed to give it. You see, it is by God’s grace – it is by God’s forgiveness – that we can have a relationship with Him. When you forgive somebody you’re showing grace. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that person that wronged you doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. You’re right. They don’t deserve it. Neither do you. But God forgives you anyway.

Failing to forgive another person is like taking poison to get back at that person. Do you really want God to forgive you the way you forgive others? Forgive and receive forgiveness.

James Collins is the Pastor of Fort Scott’s First Southern Baptist Church.

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