How to Forgive & Be Forgiven
My Fight with Forgiveness
This was an intimidating podcast episode to create. Before I even began podcasting I sent a survey out to friends asking what topics I should cover within the realm of faith, ethnicity, and culture. When one friend submitted the topic forgiveness I cringed. It’s an area I’ve had to grow in and it does not always come naturally, especially in situations regarding ethnicity and discrimination. In fact, it was only several months ago that I came to a crossroads with God about this topic. I knew in order to be used effectively to create change I could not be bitter or blindly defensive, but I could not get over the history of wrong. The centuries of oppression over multiple people groups that have left consequences in our nation still powerfully effective today. Then, and don’t remember how, I came across Corrie Ten Boom’s story.
Corrie Ten Boom was arrested by the Nazis when she and her family were caught hiding Jews in their home during the Holocaust. She was sent with her sister to the Ravensbruck concentration camp were her sister died days before Corrie was released. After Corrie’s release she set up a recovery home for concentration camp survivors and traveled widely preaching God’s forgiveness and the need for reconciliation. At one of her engagements where she spoke on forgiveness a man approached her who she immediately recognized as a guard at the camp where she was imprisoned. He did not recognize her. Below is the story of her encounter directly from Corrie Ten Boom’s autobiography, The Hiding Place.
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent. ...
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard in there." No, he did not remember me.
"But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ..." his hand came out, ... "will you forgive me?"
And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it — I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses," Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." ...
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
"I forgive you, brother!" I cried. "With all my heart!"
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.
Reprinted with permission from Guideposts. Copyright © 1972 by Guideposts, Carmel, New York 10512. All rights reserved. (www.guideposts.com)
I barely got through the story without breaking down because I knew...