The Point Is … Forgive Me, Father 11/6/2020

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by James Collins

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7                 

The first thing Larry said to me was, “Forgive me, Padre, for I have sinned.” For this story to make sense, I need to back up and start at the beginning. I served for many years as a United States Army Chaplain. Military Chaplains can wear the symbol of their faith on their uniforms. For example, a Jewish Rabbi Chaplain wears the Star of David.  

As a Christian who is Baptist, I wore the Cross. Roman Catholic Chaplains also wear the Cross. Because we both wore the Cross, there were times people wrongly assumed I was a Catholic Priest. 

It happened once when I was serving in Iraq. I had been traveling for several hours in a convoy of up-armored vehicles. When I reached our base, I had to go to the bathroom. There were two portable toilets just inside the base. I am not sure what the proper name is for a portable toilet, but we called them Porta Potties. There were two Porta Potties sitting side by side just inside the base. As I made my way to one, I noticed a soldier, looking intently at me. I didn’t know it, but he was looking at the cross on my uniform. He thought I was a Catholic Priest.  

I was inside one of the Porta Potties when I heard the door to the other one open. Someone stepped inside and yelled through the wall, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”  

He was trying to use the Porta Potties as a confessional booth.  

Another time, I was visiting a friend in the Veteran’s Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana. The effects of very intense combat had left my friend a shell of a man. He was in the hospital being treated for PTSD.  

To get to the VA Hospital Psychiatric Ward, you must go through several layers of security. As I was going through security, I noticed a patient staring at me through the glass. When I got inside, the man walked up and said, “Forgive me, Padre, for I have sinned.” I smiled and asked him his name. He answered, “Larry.” Then he said, “I really need to talk.” I wanted to tell him I was not a Catholic Priest, but he started telling me his story before I got the chance. 

Larry was a Vietnam Veteran. He was carrying a ton of guilt. He felt guilty for things he did in the war. Most of all, he felt guilty for the choices he made in life after the war. He became an alcoholic and lived on the streets.  

One day, Larry called home. His mom said, “Son, I am sick. Please come home.” Larry took a long time coming home. When he finally arrived, he was too late. His mom was dead.   

Larry tried to pull his life together. He sobered up and got married. Soon he was a father to a beautiful baby girl. For a while, things were looking up. Life was good until he started drinking again.  

Larry couldn’t keep a job. He missed too much work because he was constantly hungover. After a while, nobody would hire him. So, his wife worked, and he stayed home with their daughter.  

One time, the baby wouldn’t stop crying. In a fit of rage, Larry violently shook his little girl. When he realized what he was doing, he put the baby down, and he walked out. He left his wife, his child, and his home. He went back to living on the streets. Eventually, he ended up in a prescription drug induced daze at the Shreveport, VA Hospital. 

Larry talked for two hours, and as he told his story, both of us cried. Finally, he said to me again, “Forgive me Padre, for I have sinned.” I said, “I can’t forgive you, but Jesus Christ, Whom I serve, can and will forgive you.”  

I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him. As I prayed, I could feel the tension leaving his body. When I finished his face looked brighter. There was a difference in him. He smiled at me and said, “It’s been a long time since I had something to smile about.”  

We stood up. I hugged him and said, “I will be praying for you.” 

Two weeks later, I went back to the VA Hospital. When I walked into the Psychiatric Ward, a nurse yelled at me, “You! The doctor wants to talk to you!” I thought, “Oh no. What did I do? Why would the doctor want to talk to me?”  

The nurse ushered me into the doctor’s office. “We saw you talking with Larry the other day,” he said.  “What did you do to him?” 

“I didn’t do anything.” I innocently replied. 

“Larry is completely off all medications.” 

“That’s great!” 

“Yes, it is. He is being discharged. He seems like a different person.” 


“He has contacted his daughter and they have reconciled.” 

“That is incredible!” 

“He has been going around the hospital with a Gideon Bible and he has been praying for the other patients.” 

“Praise God!” 

“What did you do to him?”  

“Doctor, I didn’t do anything. You have just been out-physicianed by the Great Physician.”    

The point is: Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, is still in the healing business. Are you carrying a load of guilt and shame? Do you need forgiveness? The Doctor is in the house.  

Take your problems and your sins to Jesus. He is medicine for the weary soul. 

The Point Is...

James Collins

James Collins

James Collins is pastor, columnist, and author. You can write to him by email at







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