Forgiveness — Corrie Meets Guard
You are probably aware that Corrie ten Boom, along with her sister and father, were sent to Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp, for hiding Jews.
Her sister and father died there, but Corrie was released, due to a “clerical error.” And the Kingdom of God is better off for it.
Corrie ten Boom likened forgiveness to letting go of a bell rope. If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing.
Corrie ten Boom says forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple, but when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.
It is like that with forgiveness. When you decide to forgive, the old feelings of unforgiveness may continue to assert themselves. After all, they have lots of momentum. But if you affirm your decision to forgive, that unforgiving spirit will begin to slow and will eventually be still. Forgiveness is letting go of the "rope" of retribution. (Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations)
You get past the bitterness by refusing to hang onto it.
Let go of the rope.
Stop nursing the grudge. This is unforgiveness, and as we’ve looked at time and time again over these past few weeks, it is sin.
And that sin will destroy not the person you’re refusing to forgive. It will destroy you.
Let me give you something else from Corrie ten Boom:
After the war she returned to Germany to declare the grace of Christ.
“It was 1947, and I’d come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth that they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think
that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.
‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, ’NO FISHING ALLOWED.’
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a cap with skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush—the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were! That place was Ravensbruck, and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard—one of the most cruel guards.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: "A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!" And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? But I remembered him. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard 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,"—again the hand came out—"will you forgive me?"
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could 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 out 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. But even then, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.
Holocaust Victim Forgives Captor
Folks, here’s the bottom line:
To forgive is to be like Jesus.
Jesus refused to be bitter toward His torturers and executioners. He refused to withhold forgiveness to those who had manipulated the system to bring about His death.
Jesus knew that forgiveness was the ultimate Kingdom purpose. Forgiveness of sinners so they could live forever in His presence and the presence of the Father and the Spirit.
He bought your forgiveness and modeled how we should give it.
Will you, a person who claims to love and follow Jesus, withhold the very thing He died to bring?
Never let it be said of us!
Never let it be said of this congregation that forgiveness is not freely given.
Never let it be said of this church that bitterness and anger reign in the hearts of any of its people.
Never let it be said of this fellowship that forgiveness is just something we just talk about but never really experience between our people.
Rather, let it be said of us that the love and grace and compassion of Jesus is alive and well here.
Let it be said of us that we handle our differences and conflicts in the way Jesus laid out for us, in the spirit Jesus commands us to.
Let it be said of us that we follow Jesus in the area where it is probably the hardest, on a personal level – the area of forgiveness.
Let it be said of us that the spirit of this church, of this congregation, of this fellowship, is not one of bitterness and un-forgiveness, but rather one that reflects our inability to hoard the grace of Christ and allows it to overflow to everyone.
Let it be said of us. Let it be said of you.