Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

8 Forgive or forgo forgiveness – Part 1

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Matthew 6:12-15

“12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Her name was 66730, or at least that was the name she went by. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister. Her freedom, her dignity, her humanity had been stripped away by those who imprisoned her and yet she survived. They had robbed her of everything she ever possessed but they couldn’t rob her of the one who possessed her, Jesus. She saw every day in Ravensbruck as a chance to minister to someone more needy then herself, and then one day she was released. As suddenly as she had become a prisoner she was freed, and her solitary aim was to minister to others. When the war was over she began traveling and speaking sharing her Savior and the vision that He had given her. And then one day, something happened, something that shook her to the very center of her being. Now you probably wouldn’t know her as 66730, you would be more apt to know her as Corrie ten Boom: “It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “It was the truth 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. …’ “The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room. “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 visored cap with its 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! 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. “Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! 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 and the leather crop swinging from his belt. 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. Fräulein,’ 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 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.’ “I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that. “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. ‘… Help!’ 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” And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that this worlds healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

One of the scariest and most somber parts of the Lord ’s Prayer is found toward the end of the prayer, where we are called to not only experience the Father’s forgiveness but also choose to extend His forgiveness: “12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. 13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” For those who pray this prayer they are proclaiming that they are not only seeking forgiveness but seeking to share it. In reality we are asking God to forgive us in exactly the same way that we forgive those who have wrong us. Many come to God seeking His forgiveness because they know they have wronged Him yet they are unwilling to forgive those who have wronged them. We expect forgiveness but do we extend it? When it comes to forgiveness saints often set a double standard, where we seek it but don’t share it. But forgiveness doesn’t have a check valve, it’s not a one way flow. Just as we receive His forgiveness we should relinquish it. When we try to dam up forgiveness it creates a blockage which shuts of the Father’s flow of forgiveness in our lives. Everything ends up drying up down steam creating a drought and we end up living in the dry desert. The truth is that you will never truly get forgiveness until you give it. So today who do you need to forgive? Just like Corrie ten Boom we are called to not only preached forgiveness but to practiced it.

 

 

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