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What ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Teaches Us About Forgiveness

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“I Can Only Imagine,” a new film being released by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions on March 16, 2018, shows the reality of forgiveness in a way that so many will relate to.


Forgiving someone who has deeply hurt us might feel like one of the most difficult tasks we are faced with as Christians.

Our human tendencies long for the scales to be balanced—we want revenge, we want some justification or affirmation that the pain inflicted upon us was unfair and cruel. We want someone to pay for their wrongdoings, we want things to be fair. Despite these natural emotions, when we turn to the Bible, we see the most pure and selfless examples of forgiveness from a merciful God— a God who shows more forgiveness to us in a day than we will ever have the opportunity to show someone else in a lifetime.

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“I Can Only Imagine,” a new film being released by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions on March 16, 2018, shows the reality of forgiveness in a way that so many will relate to. This movie is not only an example of God’s never-ending, all-consuming, redeeming love, but also an example of a man who chose to look to Him as an example of forgiveness when he was faced with two choices: to forgive, or to reject.

MercyMe’s song “I Can Only Imagine,” written by founding member and lead singer Bart Millard, dominated Christian radio in 2001, even crossing over to become a huge hit on Adult Contemporary and Top 40 charts. However, “I Can Only Imagine,” the film, tells the story behind the words of the song, giving insight into Millard’s life which was full of abuse and negativity at the hands of his father (played by Dennis Quaid) who consistently crushed his dreams and physically and emotionally abused him.

Forgiveness opens doors to a beautiful future.

It was during those early years that Millard’s faith kept him grounded—anchoring him in a deep love of a heavenly father so different than that of his earthly one. But despite that deep-rooted faith, the weight of a broken relationship with his father followed him, even when he was old enough to escape it through physical distance.

It was when Millard returned home to find his father a changed man, passionate about loving Christ and asking for his forgiveness that he was faced with the task of truly trusting and forgiving like Christ. The story that unfolds is one that he would never have imagined—a true testament to the love and forgiveness he showed a man who by all accounts, didn’t deserve it.

LightWorkers I Can Only Imagine

Courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

This movie will inspire and hit home for so many. And it shares some powerful examples of forgiveness that can’t be missed:

1. No one is too broken for forgiveness from God, which means they shouldn’t be too broken for forgiveness from us.

When he returns home to find his father a changed man, Millard’s defenses are up—the pain and rejection he suffered at the hands of his father were still raw in his heart. It took time and intentionality for the process of forgiveness to take place, but Millard chose to forgive as he saw his Heavenly Father forgive his earthly one.

If a perfect and all-knowing God can forgive, who are we to withhold the forgiveness that is so selflessly given to us?

2. Forgiveness is not about getting even.

Even though Millard’s father accepted Christ and changed his life, the pain that he inflicted upon his son didn’t just disappear. But instead of looking for ways to make his father feel the depths of the pain he caused, Millard chooses to leave the scales unbalanced. He takes the step forward, he forgives—he accepts that forgiveness is not only possible after receiving personal relief and revenge by making the other person feel a similar pain. It’s a gift that is genuinely given to someone who has wronged us.

It’s ok for the scales to be left unbalanced.

3. Forgiveness opens doors to beautiful potential and opportunities instead of leaving a weight of bitterness on our heart.

It was through the act of forgiveness that Millard and his father were able to mend and develop a relationship that changed both of their lives. Had he chosen not to forgive, the pain of their broken relationship would have followed him for the rest of his life. The redemptive story of his father’s journey to Christ also inspired Millard to write a song that changed more lives than just his own. “I Can Only Imagine” brought a message of Christ’s love to more people than he could have ever imagined.

Forgiveness opens doors to a beautiful future.

This movie is not only an example of God’s redemptive love, it’s an invitation to put down fighting fists and words to allow forgiveness to free you of the pain and bitterness that someone has placed upon you.

Choose forgiveness, and see what doors open in your life.

“I Can Only Imagine” opens in theaters near you on March 16, 2018. For show times and details, please visit https://icanonlyimagine.com/

To read more about Bart Millard’s incredible story, read his memoir, “I Can Only Imagine” which takes readers behind the scenes of his life.

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