Many pupils that I teach have a very similar idea about what the worst event in history was, and I imagine that is one that is shared by many of us… the holocaust. Afterall, it was because of the actions of Nazi Germany in world war II that we now have the universal declaration of human rights. If you had experienced any of those events, would you be able to forgive?
Forgiveness is a strange value… it is one that we can often take for granted… but it is also one that can be the hardest to live.
Corrie Ten Boom lived in Holland with her family during the 1940s, they were clockmakers and they were Christians. As a family they helped many Jews who were hiding from the Nazi’s, they would give them safety until they were able to move on to another safe house. She witnessed these people, hiding to protect themselves, not because of something they had done, but because of a belief system they held. Corrie and her family helped many Jews, but eventually they were arrested. Some, including Corrie, were taken to concentration camps. Corrie made it out alive, unfortunately many of the other members of her family didn’t.
Corrie had experienced more pain and suffering than many of us will ever know, and none of it seems to be able to be justified. She saw the suffering of the Jews, she experienced a concentration camp, she lost members of her family.
She had every right to be angry, and vengeful. And yet… she forgave! She also helped many others to forgive, and led them to new life in Christ. When speaking about her situation she said
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw then sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help to forgive him… Jesus I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness… And so I discovered that is not on our own forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself”
Corrie we angry, she was vengeful, but she knew that this was wrong. She knew that Jesus died for all, not just for some. She also knew that she needed to forgive, but didn’t have the strength to.
As a teacher I cannot expect pupils to do work, unless I have given them the skills and information to do so in the first place. Sometimes I will have to give more guidance than others, because the task is harder. This is exactly what Corrie is saying in this quote. When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, he didn’t just give the command, go off, sit down, thinking “Excellent, I’ve told them what to do, I’ll just let them get on with it”. Jesus gave us Love as well.
Forgiveness isn’t just a one-off thing, it isn’t easy, it’s really difficult. BUT we don’t have to do it on our own. We have amazing examples of Jesus forgiving in the Bible, we also know that we have been forgiven. Corrie was able to forgive the atrocities that she experienced because she asked God for help. We can do the same.
Forgiveness isn’t saying that everything is OK. It is recognising that it has happened, but moving on. Giving the situation over to God, and not holding a grudge. After all, holding a grudge is hard work.
Is there something that you are holding on to? Something that someone has said or done? It may not be easy, but don’t let it take over your life. Give the situation over to God, and ask Him to help you forgive.
God gave us freedom, that means we will make mistakes. God also gave us forgiveness, through Jesus dying and rising. This doesn’t mean we have permission to make loads of mistakes, but it does mean we have the possibility to be forgiven when we do. If we can eb forgiven, why should we not forgive others?
Challenge: Think about one thing that you know you are holding on to. It doesn’t matter how small. And ask God to help you forgive.
Prayer: Thank you God that you have forgiven us, help us to remember that forgiveness, and help us to ask you when we need to forgive others. Amen