Matthew Maher was staring down a world full of opportunity, until one mistake-laden night stripped that promising future away: he went from unlocked potential to being locked in a jail cell.
A New Jersey native, the now-39-year-old Maher earned a soccer scholarship from Temple University and ultimately signed a contract to play professionally — until he blew out his knee in the spring of 2009.
Just days after his season-ending injury, Maher explained on CBN’s “Faith vs. Culture,” he drunkenly got behind the wheel of a car and fatally struck a 55-year-old husband and father of six — a tragic accident that led to Maher’s conviction of first-degree aggravated manslaughter and his sentencing to five-and-a-half years in prison.
“My world exploded — not to mention somebody else’s world, a family, who I did not know at the time, their world imploded,” Maher said. “And that kind of began the reckoning of God getting my undivided attention. I came crashing down, or falling back on this faith foundation. The cliché goes like this: when you hit rock bottom, you discover Christ is the rock at the bottom. And that became my reality.”
It was in the courtroom, when Maher was awaiting sentencing, that his journey of reconciliation with the Lord — and even his victim’s family — began unfolding.
The son of Maher’s drunk-driving victim, Cambodian national Hort Kap, unloaded his grief on the man responsible for his father’s death. But in the moments after detailing to Maher how his reckless choices “destroyed his world,” the heartbroken son’s countenance changed.
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“A composure came over this young man that only heaven could provide, and his very next statement to me was, ‘But I forgive you, my brother,'” Maher recalled. “And he came over to me right in the courtroom … and him and I embraced and hugged, and I tell you the truth, guys, all that weight, all that guilt that I carried into the courtroom, it completely evaporated; it completely melted away. And, in that moment, before I would be physically incarcerated … I was spiritually liberated.”
“Before I spent even a single second as an inmate in the state of New Jersey, the Lord had given me something that I did not deserve, and that was forgiveness,” he added.
Maher went on to explain the way the Lord used the horror born out of his sins to reveal the way Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection — the Gospel story — redeems suffering for the good of all who trust in Him as their Savior.
His experience with earthly justice, the former soccer player said, was “a picture of the Gospel.”
“Everyone will stand before a judge one day, and we’re all guilty as charged for breaking the laws of God,” Maher explained. “No one can get out of it — not good works, not a résumé that would proceed them, not a lawyer who can articulate the law of God eloquently. Everyone is guilty as charged; that’s what the Word of God says. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
“The wages of sin equals death,” he continued. “That’s terrible news, unless you understand there’s an advocate in that courtroom: a Son who decided to step up, step out, and give the offender what he did not deserve. And that’s what that sentencing day became for me: a perfect picture of Romans 5:8, how God demonstrates His own love toward us in that, while we were in our sin … far from God, that is when Christ died for us.”
Over the course of Maher’s 55-month prison sentence, the Lord transformed his life.
He is now an author, speaker, and pastor passionate about sharing his testimony in hopes it will illuminate for others the power the Gospel has to redeem and restore the pain and suffering of this life.
Every year, Maher reaches out to the Kap family, sending notes of remorse in hopes of restoring “honor” to his victim and the loved ones mourning their loss. And he has seen the Lord use that simple gesture in profound ways.
Maher sat face-to-face this year with one of Kap’s surviving daughters, where the two spoke about the power of forgiveness: The victim’s daughter rendering it and Maher receiving it. That interaction, the now-pastor reflected, has been a major step toward restoration, a God-sized work of redemption.
The Lord has even graciously redeemed March 7, 2009, the date of Kap’s death.
Maher’s wife, Sarah, was due to deliver their second child in late February. Those days slipped away and March arrived. She went into labor on March 6, 2021, and — just like February — the hours slipped by, and their child wasn’t yet born.
“And as God allowed it, 11:59 on the clock turned to 12 midnight, and the hands of the clock … turned over from March 6 to March 7,” he said. “March 7, the day where my hands were responsible for causing suffering — my hands caused death — became the same day that God allowed and ordained my hands to receive life. My son’s birthday was Mr. Hort Kap’s death day.”
That kindness from the Lord, Maher added, is now a tool he uses to share the Gospel.
“All of us have that same testimony,” he explained. “Jesus’ death on the cross — if you believe He died for your sins and He would redeem and recycle all suffering — [t]hen a death day becomes a birthday, your birthday, you become born again if you believe that. I stand in awe of what God has allowed in my life as a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
There is so much to Maher’s testimony. You can watch our full conversation about God’s perfectly redemptive love for us in the video above.
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