SOURCE: Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217-218.
A Faith That Forgiveness Requires
Above all else, remember that true forgiveness depends on God’s grace.
If you try to forgive others on your own, you are in for a long and frustrating battle.
But if you ask God to change your heart and you continually rely on his grace, you can forgive even the most painful offenses.
God’s grace was powerfully displayed in the life of Corrie ten Boom, who had been imprisoned with her family by the Nazis for giving aid to Jews early in World War II. Her elderly father and beloved sister, Betsie, died as a result of the brutal treatment they received in prison. God sustained Corrie through her time in a concentration camp, and after the war she traveled throughout the world, testifying to God’s love. Here is what she wrote about a remarkable encounter in Germany:
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center 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, Fraulein,” 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 Bloemendall about 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.
So I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on him. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself.
Why do we agonize over whether we ourselves will be able to forgive those who have sinned against us? Our forgiveness is a pale substitute of what is needed. Instead, what is necessary is just this: that we allow Christ’s forgiveness of us–the forgiveness that flows through us and brings life to us–to flow outward from us to reach the others in our lives who, like us, are equally undeserving of his mercy. For “[i]t does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Rom. 9:16).