Thursday, October 22, 2020

Guilty, But Forgiven

By David A. Sargent

     On the morning of December 2, 2011, Gerrard Machin left his home in Bournemouth, England, to take a walk to purchase the morning newspaper.  His wife, Patricia, grew concerned when he was gone for an extended period of time and went to look for him.  As she traced the steps that her husband would have taken, she saw a young man standing with a policeman next to an ambulance.  She thought, “Oh my goodness maybe Gerrard has witnessed an accident.”  But then she saw Gerrard’s familiar blue bag containing his newspapers leaning against a wall.  She knew it was her husband that needed the ambulance.
     The young man that stood with the policeman, Brian Williamson, was extremely troubled.  He was driving his car around a corner when he accidentally struck Gerrard who was crossing the street.  Informed of what had happened and still in terrible shock, Patricia stood with Williamson, trying to comfort him in her arms, as the ambulance took her husband to the hospital.
     Nine weeks later, Gerrard Machin died due to the injuries sustained in the accident.
     Williamson was tried in Bournemouth Crown Court.  He was found guilty of causing the death of Gerrard by careless driving.  Speaking after the guilty verdict, Williamson said that not a day went by when he did not think about the crash, adding: “My heart and thoughts go out to Mr. Machin's family.”  He added that as difficult as it had been for him, it had to be “10 times worse for [Machin’s] family.”  Following the hearing, Williamson sobbed in sorrow.
     Before Williamson’s sentencing, he was given a letter that Patricia Machin had written to him.  It was a letter of forgiveness.  Patricia wrote:

“Dear Brian.  Today is a very important day and I will be in court to support you.  On the day of the accident, however bad it was for me, I realize it was 1,000 times worse for you.  Neither Gerrard, if he was here, nor I feel any sense of condemnation towards you.  Will you make me a promise; that you will get on with your young life, knowing that you will always be supported by my prayers?”

Patricia told the Daily Echo in 2013, “I don't feel any ill thoughts or grudges towards Brian, not for a single moment, and I know Gerrard wouldn't either.  It was the worst day of my life and, no doubt, the worst day of Brian's life as well.  I've only ever felt sorry for him because who hasn't made a mistake when driving?  I've had to get on with my life and I hope he can now do the same.”
     Before sentencing Williamson to a three-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, Judge Wiggs told him: “I read the extremely moving letter from Mrs. Machin.  You are very fortunate to have been forgiven.  There is no doubt that what happened on that day was a tragedy for everyone, including you.  Nevertheless you were responsible.” *
     Yet Brian Williamson will always know that the wife of the man that he accidentally killed has forgiven him.
     You and I are responsible for the death of the Son of God.  It was for our sins, not His own, that Jesus died on the cross.  Yet He died on the cross so that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life.  “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
     God will forgive and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
     It’s not “good fortune” to know that we can be forgiven by God.  It’s called “GRACE.”  You can receive it, if you’ll only accept it through your trusting obedience.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website:

* Information gleaned from “It was 1,000 times worse for you: widow's astonishing words to driver who killed her husband” in the Daily Echo (18 February 2013) of Bournemouth, England,

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