"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." Matthew 6:14
A Christian woman has shared how her faith gave her the ability to forgive two men who killed her husband in a story of grace, redemption, and healing.
On Christmas Eve four years ago, Alan Greaves, 68, was brutally murdered on his way to play the organ at his local church for the midnight Christmas service. Two men, Jonathan Bowling and Ashley Foster, both 22, were later jailed for the killing in which they beat Alan with a pickaxe handle and a hammer in an unprovoked attack, according to The Guardian.
Alan died in hospital two days after Christmas of the horrific head injuries he had sustained, leaving behind his wife of 40 years, Maureen, two daughters, two sons, and grandchildren. Officials later said the killers, who were sentenced to 25 years in prison, were simply out "looking for trouble" and identified Alan as a "suitable victim".
During a recent interview with BBC Radio 4's Today, Maureen, who works as a lay preacher for the Church of England's outreach group, the Church Army, shared how her faith has enabled her to forgive her husband's killers: "When you are a Christian and you live your life with God, you have an enormous sense of wonder that God forgives you for your sins," she said.
"Of course I haven't murdered anybody but I have done wrong in my life. One of the wonderful things about Christianity is you have a God who truly forgives you," she continued. "Therefore it's through God's forgiveness and mercy that I have been able to extend true forgiveness to Ashley and Jonathan."
In an earlier interview with The Guardian, Maureen shared how she found herself at her dying husband's bedside that Christmas Eve night, thinking of forgiveness, two weeks before the police investigating the case had even made an arrest.
"I remember my face was raw and dry from crying so much. In the hospital I couldn't hug him or hold him at all. All I could do was hold his fingers, so many tubes and wires. I remember I started to pray, I believe I can talk to God, that he's my father, so I talked to him.
"Then my thoughts turned to the person who had in effect killed Alan and I thought gosh, it's Christmas Day, a holy night, and I thought what would Alan have done. He was better at forgiveness than me.
"When he found out I was someone who could bear a grudge he used to say to me: 'We mustn't give ourselves permission to act like that, Mo.' And I thought Alan would forgive them. It's Christmas Day. I didn't want to carry the anger, all that destructive anger, in my life. My family said they felt I'd helped them with the way I choose to deal with it. That's what matters in the end."
Maureen said she does want justice for her husband's death - but she holds no anger against his killers.
"I'm not saying I don't want justice for Alan, I did," she said. "But I had to carry myself in a way that would help my children. Forgiveness means you are not seeking retribution or vengeance. Forgiveness is recognizing that we are all in the same boat, we're all the same, not perfect."