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What does forgiveness look like?

Sexual abuse victim makes powerful offer to her abuser

The first woman to publicly accuse former Team USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, Rachael Denhollander, was also the last, of more than 150 women and girls, to give a victim statement to the court. And its power derived from the gospel of grace and forgiveness in Christ.

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Before Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of minors, Denhollander, a Christian, explained why she went public with her testimony.

She said: “You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness, no matter what it cost others, and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.

“Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done.” – Rachael Denhollander

“In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

“You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance, which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

“The Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck and you thrown into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

“I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may some day experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me.” – Rachael Denhollander

“The Bible you speak [of] carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

“I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may some day experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me – though I extend that to you as well.”

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