I was in the studio yesterday with Frank Sontag for his KKLA radio program in Los Angeles. We were talking about Cold Case Christianity and the transformation I experienced when I first became a Christian. As an atheist, I embraced a moral code very similar to the Christians I knew. I didn’t have to be a Christian to recognize what was morally virtuous and what was not (Romans 2:14-15); I spent nearly a decade as a police officer before I began to investigate the Gospels. During most of this time, I was quite judgmental of the people I arrested. I drew clear distinctions between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, and I was happy to put bad guys in jail for as long as possible. An attitude of un-forgiveness dominated my professional life, and this attitude seeped over into my personal life on occasion.
When I became a Christian, my perspective on forgiveness began to change. In fact, this might have been the most dramatic change I experienced as a Christian. My heart softened. I became more forgiving. It didn’t happen as a matter of conscious effort (I didn’t try harder because I knew I ought to). Instead, I slowly became aware of my own fallen condition, and this heightened awareness led to my transformation. The people I worked with started to notice this change in my character even before I said anything about my interest in Christianity. In fact, I hid my investigation of Christianity from my partners for months. They knew me as a vocal atheist, and I knew I would take a beating once they found out I had changed my position. As a result, they saw the changes in my character long before they discovered I was a Christian.
I remember reading the Gospel of Luke repeatedly as a new believer. It was one of my favorite Gospels because I understood how it connected Luke’s Book of Acts to the case for early dating. One of Jesus’ parables was striking to me because it explained my growing attitude of forgiveness. In Luke Chapter 7, Jesus entered the home of a Pharisee named Simon: