Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever 9-17-2017

When I was doing research for this homily on forgiveness I came
across a very interesting story about Abraham Lincoln.
When Mr. Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency, one of his
arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason
Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade
Lincoln in the eyes of the public. So deep-rooted was Stanton’s hate for
Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance, and
sought to embarrass him at every point. But in spite of this, Lincoln was
elected the sixteenth president of the United States of America.
Then came the period when Lincoln had to select his cabinet,
which would consist of the persons who would be his most intimate
associates in implementing his programs. He started choosing men here
and there for the various positions.
The day finally came for Lincoln to select the all-important post of
Secretary of War. Can you imagine whom Lincoln chose to fill this post?
None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate uproar
in the president’s inner circle when the news began to spread. Advisor
after advisor was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making a
mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all the

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ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to
sabotage your programs. Have you thought this through, Mr. President??
Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr.
Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he has said about me. But
after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So
Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an
invaluable service to his nation and his president.
Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable
things were said about him. But of all the great statements made about
Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest.
Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred
to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived and said, “He now
belongs to the ages.”
If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their
graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of forgiveness Lincoln
transformed an enemy into a friend. One simple act of forgiveness can
change people’s lives. Are there any Stanton’s in your life right now?
Some years ago, a pastor in Boston was being harassed by a
woman in his congregation. She started false rumors about him. She
wrote vicious letters about him to his bishop and others. She initiated
petitions to have him removed. After several months of this, the woman

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moved to another city and not long afterward was converted to Christ.
Part of the process of her conversion was to realize the terrible wrong
she had done and all the pain and suffering she had inflicted on her
pastor in Boston. Consequently, she wrote him a long letter explaining
what had happened to her and how deeply she regretted what she had
done to him. The pastor immediately sent her a telegram with three
words on it: Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever.
Is there someone we/you/me need to say those words to and mean
them? Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever or do we want to live life like that
trapped rattlesnake filled with resentment and bitterness and bite
ourselves to death! I hope not.

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