EDMONTON – We must confess our sin when we do wrong and must forgive others when they do wrong.
That's the message evangelical leader and former businessman Jack Klemke brought to the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast at the Shaw Conference Centre April 25.
Forgiveness, he said, is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person's sin. "We need to accept God's forgiveness. It is the cross that makes forgiveness legally and morally right. He died once to break the power of sin."
Klemke reflected on Christian faith in life and business at the 16th annual prayer breakfast, a non-political event that allows churches, ministries and business people an opportunity to show their appreciation and pray for the mayor and other civic leaders.
Several hundred people, including leaders from various churches, attended the $40-a-plate breakfast.
Individual prayers were said for the city's emergency services personnel, for councillors and for Mayor Stephen Mandel.
Klemke, in partnership with his father, founded their family business, T.A. Klemke and Son Construction, in the spring of 1949. The business progressed from construction of irrigation canals, highways, dams, and railroad grades to mining in 1973.
The company, now known as KMC Mining Inc., contracts mining projects mainly in the Alberta oilsands as well as some coal and other mineral projects in western Canada.
In 2008, Klemke retired from active participation in the family business after 59 years.
Over the decades, Klemke and his wife Carol, in partnership with various Church groups, have focused on helping to spread the message of the Bible internationally.
Klemke and his wife live in Edmonton and have three sons, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. They have travelled extensively – seeking to effect change in people's attitudes and helping them move from intolerance to forgiveness and reconciliation.
"Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person's sin," Klemke said at the breakfast. "We must confess our sin when we do wrong (and) we must forgive when others do wrong."
In the mid-1970s, the businessman went to the maximum security prison to visit a former employee who was serving time for murder. "I said, 'Al, I have good news for you: you can be forgiven but you have to live with the consequences.'"
He then referred him to King David, who tried to cover up adultery and murder, and told his employee, "When we try to cover-up or deny our sin, God can't heal.'"
Psalm 51 shows that David experienced the agony of guilt. "Save me from bloodguilt, O God," the king said in desperation.
Then in Psalm 32 David said, "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him."
The king finally realized he had to seek God's forgiveness to be released from guilt, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sins," he said in Psalm 32.5.
Klemke said his former employee started moving toward accepting God's forgiveness of his sin after hearing about King David. "I think eventually he found release from his burden of guilt."
Then Klemke spoke briefly about a business friend who looked irreparably low and bitter. He was carrying a grudge against other individuals he imagined had wronged him.
"So I discovered that we can live life in the torment of unforgiveness or in the freedom of forgiveness," Klemke told his audience. "We need to keep short accounts instead of keeping score."
Then, reading from Matt. 6.14-15, Klemke quoted Jesus as saying: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Hidden wounds, Klemke said, grow worse rather than better.
Jesus' words helped Klemke's friend immensely. Two weeks later they met and his friend had decided to forgive the people who had allegedly wronged him and had also decided to receive God's forgiveness through Christ. He became a joyful and peaceful man. "I watched his transformation as he dropped the grudge."
Forgiveness is also the solution to break generational unforgiveness like that local Serbs and Croats held against each other years ago, Klemke said.
"We must decide once and for all that the past will be over and done; that those who have wronged us will no longer be the object of our hatred," he said.
"The solution to bitter unforgiveness is to choose to forgive. When Jesus comes into your life, he indwells you, and his desire is that you allow him to love your enemy through you."