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  • Heidi J. Smith

Second Chances (part 1)

Photo credit to: It's me Neosiam from Pexels titled attractive beauty

Have you ever been hurt by someone?


Maybe someone stole, slandered, or shamed you. Or you fill in the blank. How should you treat this person? Should you give him or her a second chance?


I recently heard this story from a friend, and it goes something like this. **


Traveling by train toward his hometown, a newly-released criminal hoped to see his family. Years earlier his crime disgraced his family, and they disowned him.


While in prison, the criminal wrote several letters to his family begging for forgiveness, but they never responded.


In a final attempt, he penned one more request. If I am welcome, please tie a white ribbon in the tree. If I am not welcome, please leave the tree bare, and I will never bother you again.


As the train chugged closer, doubts filled his mind. Is my sin to great? Will anyone want me? Can I ever be forgiven?


With a trembling voice and turning stomach, the prisoner leaned over to the passenger next to him and pleaded, "Would you please do me a favor? Look out the window and tell me if you see a white ribbon."


The passenger nodded and stared out the window. Silence followed.


Growing impatient, the prisoner questioned, "Do you see a white ribbon?"


The passenger said, "No, I see hundreds of ribbons."


Tears streamed down the prisoner's face.


"What does it mean?" the passenger asked.


"It means that I am FORGIVEN and finally home," sobbed the man.

Have you ever desired a second chance? I have.


Throughout history and all around us, people desire second chances.

In the Bible, runaway slave Onesimus longed for forgiveness.


Onesimus stole from his master Philemon and fled to Rome. While in Rome, he met the imprisoned apostle Paul who shared God's love with him. Onesimus accepted God's gift of forgiveness and desired a clean slate.


On behalf of Onesimus, Paul wrote Philemon a letter asking for forgiveness and restoration as a brother rather than a slave. This request contradicted Roman culture because runaway slaves were usually killed or brutally punished. Paul even offered to pay for Onesimus's debts (Philemon 1:19).


The Bible doesn't share the end of the story. But just as Paul offered to pay for Onesimus's crime, God paid for our sins by dying on the cross. His blood covers ALL our sins.


If God can forgive me, how can I not extend the same kindness to others?


"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15 ESV


Since I desire forgiveness, why am I so slow to extend the same courtesy?

Is it because I know my true motives, but I only guess at others' intentions?

Do I think I am better than others and would never stumble that way?

Holding a grudge gives me power over someone, but in reality, it binds me.


We are all messy and have faults.

In my sinfulness, Jesus loved me and died for me. He did not require me to clean myself up first, but He accepted me (Romans 5:8).


Lord, thank you for tying white ribbons all over my life every day. Please help me to extend the same to others. Help me to show grace rather than condemnation, humility rather than superiority (realizing the roles could be reverse), and love rather than hatred.



** I tried to locate the original source of the "white ribbon story," but I could not. Online information states the earliest stories were published in The Christian Herald in 1961 and Reader's Digest in 1961.

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Heidi J. Smith