BreakPoint: The Witness of Forgiveness

Grace Displayed in the Midst of the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is delivering tragedy and pain to families across the country. Here’s how one such family has responded in Christ.

On January 30, 2016, Ashlynn Bailey, a twenty-year-old from Pelham, Alabama, died from a drug overdose.

As John and I have said on BreakPoint many times, America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic—one that kills more people every year than the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s.

This means that thousands of families endure the kind of anguish and pain that Bailey’s parents have gone through.

Yet, in the midst of their pain, Bailey’s family reminded us of the difference faith can make, even when the world has ceased making sense.

In the aftermath of her death, her parents established the Ashlynn Bailey Foundation, whose mission is to help addicts and their families. Part of that assistance is sharing their own story.

Ashlynn Bailey grew up in a Christian home. She “grew up in the church, learned about God, and became a Christian at an early age.” Sadly, as many Christian parents know from painful experience, this isn’t always enough.

Bailey began experimenting with drugs in high school and within a few years was using heroin. On January 30, 2016, she bought what she believed was heroin from a dealer in Birmingham.

Instead it was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and which is often mixed with heroin. It is so potent that a policeman in East Liverpool, Ohio, accidentally overdosed after brushing fentanyl residue off his uniform following a drug bust.

Federal prosecutors charged the dealer who sold Bailey the drugs that killed her, Rodrigus Lee Pearson, with a series of drug-related offenses, and were able to increase his sentence because of the link between his actions and Bailey’s death.

At Pearson’s sentencing hearing, Mike Bailey, Ashlynn’s father, approached Pearson, and offered him his hand. He told Pearson “We extend forgiveness to you for the wrongs against our family in the same way that Christ has forgiven our wrongs, even without asking for that forgiveness.”

Afterwards, he told reporters that “I think [Pearson] needs to be held accountable . . . But I don’t want him to feel any less of a person in God’s eyes.”

He added, “I hate drugs, I hate the effects of drugs, I hate the pain that they bring, I hate how it affects families . . . It’s one of the largest demonic forces in our nation right now, just sent to break a family apart. I hate all that, but I don’t hate the individuals.”

The pain that Mike Bailey and his family are feeling is unimaginable for nearly all of us. But the grace they have demonstrated should no t be. It is what is expected of those who have experienced grace in their own lives.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” Jesus taught us to pray. The Apostle Paul urged us in Ephesians chapter 4 to “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

This forgiveness is not optional.

That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit.

It’s also the most powerful Christian witness imaginable. While there are many counter-arguments, some better than others, against specific Christian ideas, there is no argument against the kind of grace and mercy Mike Bailey displayed. It’s a reminder of what sets Christianity apart.

As I said, I can’t imagine the pain the Bailey family is feeling. But I can thank them for reminding us that the light of grace shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.


The Witness of Forgiveness: Grace Displayed in the Midst of the Opioid Epidemic

The message of forgiveness is indeed a counter-cultural one, and this example is extremely powerful. But as Eric reminds us, forgiveness is something Christ has commanded his followers to extend to others. In any situation, we are to offer the grace and mercy of Christ, as He has offered it to us.

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  • Scott

    This is a beautiful example of why Christ is the only answer for our broken humanity. God has blessed me with experiencing both sides of this kind of grace… I have received mercy and forgiveness from another and I was given the opportunity to give this kind of grace. Both are wonderful gifts from God but I have to say that letting go of your anger and forgiving someone for something you didn’t think was possible to forgive is by far the most liberating thing I have ever experienced. Other than Jesus, this is the greatest gift God has given me.

  • CCO Hughes

    Is the challenge greater to offer forgiveness and compassion to those who live among us rather than to those incarcerated who don’t live among us?

    • Scott

      Good question… I don’t know?.. I personally have never had to forgive someone who is incarcerated.

      • CCO Hughes

        The article focuses on forgiveness to one in particular who is incarcerated. Wish a future article might give insight into demonstrating forgiveness to those in addiction who we see every day. Perhaps it’s easier to offer forgiveness to someone we don’t see every day rather than to someone we do see every day. Just my thoughts.

  • gladys1071

    I am very familiar with this problem, My sister is an addict and know too well the hell that family members go though. My mother, and I have lived it for the 7 years. We have come to an acceptance that this may never change and we try to live in God’s serenity about it.

    I have some hope things will change but is is a small sliver.

  • Gina Dalfonzo

    When you don’t know why she started taking drugs, Phoenix, I find such speculation in very poor taste. Further comments along those lines will be deleted.

    • Phoenix1977

      I agree it’s poor taste, Gina, which was actually my point. I also find it poor taste to call this entire article a beautiful example of Christianity at work when a girl is still dead.

      • CCO Hughes

        The beautiful core of Christianity is forgiveness. Therefore, the article exemplifies that core in which forgiveness is offered freely whether it is accepted or not, whether the person is alive or dead.

        • Phoenix1977

          As a gay man I experienced the core of Christianity personally and I experienced anything but beauty.

          • Scott

            I forgive you for your lack of compassion… The article above is about forgiveness. If you can’t show any, you should leave this subject matter alone.

            Your comments should be removed.

          • Gina Dalfonzo

            Not your call, Scott. But I will say that this thread is both off-topic and inappropriate. Which is why I’m closing the comment section on this post now.

          • Scott

            No. What you experienced was not the “core of Christianity.” Love and forgiveness are the core of Christianity. I forgive you for all the hateful things you say against our faith… and will not meet your hate with more of the same.

          • RuthER

            Phoenix, I believe that you experienced hate from so-called Christians. The point being made is that we have been supernaturally forgiven. If we trust in the power of Jesus Christ and understand his self-sacrifice then we are more likely to extend it to others. Sounds like you encountered some folks who don’t really know Jesus or understand what he did here. It’s okay with me if you reject people who have apparently misrepresented Christ, but these parents who lost their child clearly are not among them. Please don’t reject Christ or be angry at him, and then learn to forgive those who have wronged you.

          • Phoenix1977

            I rejected Christ long before I experienced the abuse I had to endure. And some things cannot be forgiven nor are they supposed to be.

      • Scott

        “I agree it’s poor taste, Gina, which was actually my point.” So insult to injury makes it okay?

        This comment should be removed.

      • Scott

        This article is celebrates people who in the face of great loss, show mercy and forgiveness. Nothing about it is in poor taste. This is not the place to bash the faith of someone who has just lost their child, especially when that faith is the source of their amazing ability to forgive. Your comments are evil.

  • Hey Eric and Robert

    A tough topic, but I found value in The Witness of Forgiveness. The opioid epidemic is a worldwide problem, and as you guys state in this thoughtful blog post, it’s the youth that suffers the most from it.

    It really puts it into perspective when the blog compares the death rate between this problem contra aids. We need to stand up in Faith and fight this problem together.

    It warms my heart to see relatives to people with this problem take an initiative like Bailey’s family did. The link to their website in the blog post shows a much-needed site where people can go to and get help.

    My favourite part of this blog post was this sentence: “It is what is expected of those who have experienced grace in their own lives.”

    The topic raised in this blog post is worth a share. I’ll do it on my Social accounts Tuesday.

    With respect,
    Edna Davidsen

  • Scott

    You’ve crossed the line here Phoenix. You have absolutely no idea how or why she took drugs. Many people take drugs and their addiction has nothing to do with Christianity. Please don’t make comments like this.

    • Phoenix1977

      Perhaps we should not talk about crossing lines. Because than we can keep going at it for a while.