Forgiveness is healing – that’s the title of a wonderful book by Russ Parker, which has been a primary go-to book on the subject for decades. For forgiveness does bring healing, as we see in this inspiring and heartwarming story that Russ shares. Think of how many lives would be different if siblings – and friends and acquaintances – embraced like these two did. (Russ tells the story in his book, but recounts it here in a fuller form.)
I was just about to introduce our very first healing service in our church when it happened. It was the Saturday night before Easter and a group from a number of churches in town had come to pray and find the healing they were looking for. I was about to announce the opening hymn when my Verger, Roy, interrupted me and said that he did not think that this was a properly constituted service for an Anglican church. I explained that it was an ecumenical service and the Bishop was OK about it. He was quiet for a moment and then said, “I really don’t know why I have come to this service tonight.” His remarks saddened me and caused a minor irritation amongst the rest of the congregation. However, that was when God’s grace stepped in.
Roy’s wife, Eva, dug him in his ribs with her elbow as if to say, “Go on spit it out!” And that is what he proceeded to do. He almost erupted when he declared that try as he might he just did not like his younger brother. Years earlier his mother had died and his father remarried. It was from this second marriage that his brother Frank had been born. “All my daddy’s love went to my brother and I felt pushed out,” Roy said. “I hated him. The only good thing about him is that he lives far away in South Africa. Mind you he comes home now and then and I go through this game of pretending to be nice to him but really I can’t stand being near him.”
At this point some late arrivals came in at the back of the church. One them, hearing Roy speak, suddenly jumped to his feet and called out, “Roy!” It turned out to be Roy’s brother Frank. Roy was startled to hear his brother’s voice call out to him and he turned around to face him and said, “O God, I’ve been telling everyone I hated you.”
“I know that,” said Frank.
“You do!” replied Roy.
“Why do you think I went to live in South Africa? I decided to get right out of the way so you could have all of our dad’s love.”
“Well, it didn’t work,” said Roy. “Dad didn’t really pay any attention to me.”
In an attempt to move out of his obvious embarrassment Roy asked Frank, “Why have you come home now? We weren’t expecting you.”
“Well,” said Frank, “I was offered promotion at the school I work at near Cape Town. I was invited to become the Principal of the new school. I was sitting at my desk writing my letter of acceptance when I thought to myself, ‘I wonder what the verse on my Bible calendar has to say about today?’ As I was a few days behind I ripped away to the day’s date and the reading set for that day was, ‘If you are presenting your gift at the altar and you know that your brother has something against you, then leave your gift at the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother.’ (Matthew 5v23+24)
“I asked the school authorities if they would give me a few weeks before I replied as I had something I needed to do. They refused and said they wanted an answer very soon. So I said no, I needed to go home and see my brother first and that is why I am here tonight Roy.”
There was a stunned silence in the church as we all waited to see how Roy would respond to this fact. His brother had gone thousands of miles to get out of the way of Roy being loved by his dad and now he had given up a job promotion and travelled those same thousands of miles to be reconciled to his brother.
Suddenly Roy dashed up the aisle of the church and Frank climbed out of his pew and the two brothers raced into one of the most passionate and heartfelt hugs I have ever seen. They wept as they embraced and the healing each was receiving was visible on their faces.
I turned to the congregation and said, “This seems a good moment to invite anyone else who needs healing to come forward for prayer with the laying on of hands. So if that is you, then come.” Every single person in church that night came out to engage with the Christ whose healing reaches out to touch us at our point of need.
Frank never did go back to South Africa but lived in that town for some years and Roy was transformed from a rather distant and reserved man into a warm and passionate servant of his Lord.
Russ Parker has written a number of books which include Healing Dreams, Healing Death’s Wounds, Free to Fail and Healing Wounded History. He travels extensively around the UK and abroad, lecturing and teaching in issues connected with Christian healing and healthcare, reconciliation and church transformation.
Russ has been a church leader in a number of different settings and is also a co-founder of the Community of Aidan and Hilda whose mother house is situated on the holy island of Lindisfarne. He is married to Roz and lives near Farnham, Surrey, and supports Liverpool Football Club, whether they are winning or losing!
Amy’s book The Living Cross explores forgiveness through a series of daily Bible readings for Lent. You can find out more about it, and how to purchase, here.