I want to say forgiveness is a magical thing, but that doesn’t quite describe it. When I say magical, I think of an Aslan kind of magic not a Harry Potter kind of magic. It is miraculous. How do we truly forgive? Do we just say it and fight for it? Is it a feeling? How do we put it into action? Can we forgive, yet remain aloof? Isn’t forgiveness acting like it had never happened and walking in that? God forgives and forgets. Are we also expected to forget the hurt? How do you forget something that has left a huge ugly scar on your heart? Oh, and one last thing: why is it so incredibly difficult to do?
I haven’t been able to walk in forgiveness. My heart has been hard. I tried. Or I thought I tried. I said I had forgiven my husband for the hurt, but I hadn’t. I felt guilty for not forgiving. Mark 11:25-26 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Um, seriously? So then, what’s all this talk about His sacrifice and Him forgiving us? What? It’s conditional? Hmmm.
Then there’s the story of Corrie Ten Boom. I have loved and respected this woman for two decades now. It would’ve been longer, but I didn’t know about her before that. She was a Christian woman in Holland that hid Jews during WWII. Her family was caught and sent to a concentration camp where her sister died. She tells this story:
“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former SS man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing centre at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message Fräulein”, he said “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the 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 me to forgive him.I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your Forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our 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.”
If Corrie could forgive such atrocities, certainly I can do it, too, right? It’s a gift from God anyway.
1 John 1:8-10- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
If we confess, then He forgives. It’s conditional. I don’t know about you, but I want His word in me.
On that magical Sunrise Sabbath. (I say that because you know that Sabbath is really from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, right?) So, on the magical mystical Sunrise Sabbath something changed in me. It was and it wasn’t all of a sudden. Perhaps it happened just as a sunrise does. The darkness slowly fades away. It begins with a hint of light far off in the distance. The light chases the darkness away until only light fills the sky. That’s how it all happened. Light chased darkness. Love chased fear. Light and Love conquered once again. I turned to my friend, confessed all (or many) of the unloving and sinful things I had done toward my husband. There it was, right there, forgiveness. Forgiveness of my sins and forgiveness toward my husband.