Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television,
Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said, "What
I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me."
John Stott in The Contemporary Christian.
In "The Christian Leader," Don Ratzlaff retells a story Vernon Grounds came
across in Ernest Gordon's Miracle on the River Kwai. The Scottish soldiers, forced
by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad, had degenerated to barbarous
behavior, but one afternoon something happened. A shovel was missing. The officer in
charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When
nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on
the spot . . . It was obvious the officer meant what he had said. Then, finally, one man
stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to
death. When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with
them to the second tool check. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a
miscount at the first check point. The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp.
An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! . . . The incident had a
profound effect. . . The men began to treat each other like brothers. When the victorious
Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors (and
instead of attacking their captors) insisted: "No more hatred. No more killing. Now
what we need is forgiveness." Sacrificial love has transforming power.
Don Ratzlaff, "The Christian Leader".
In his book. Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the
Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand
old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been
destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or
at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down,
my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past
than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.
Bruce Goodrich was being initiated into the cadet corps at Texas A & M University.
One night, Bruce was forced to run until he dropped -- but he never got up. Bruce Goodrich
died before he even entered college.
A short time after the tragedy, Bruce's father wrote this letter to the administration,
faculty, student body, and the corps of cadets: "I would like to take this
opportunity to express the appreciation of my family for the great outpouring of concern
and sympathy from Texas A & M University and the college community over the loss of
our son Bruce. We were deeply touched by the tribute paid to him in the battalion. We were
particularly pleased to note that his Christian witness did not go unnoticed during his
brief time on campus."
Mr. Goodrich went on: "I hope it will be some comfort to know that we harbor no
ill will in the matter. We know our God makes no mistakes. Bruce had an appointment with
his Lord and is now secure in his celestial home. When the question is asked, 'Why did
this happen?' perhaps one answer will be, 'So that many will consider where they will
Our Daily Bread, March 22, 1994.
When the first missionaries came to Alberta, Canada, they were savagely opposed by a
young chief of the Cree Indians named Maskepetoon. But he responded to the gospel and
accepted Christ. Shortly afterward, a member of the Blackfoot tribe killed his father.
Maskepetoon rode into the village where the murderer lived and demanded that he be brought
before him. Confronting the guilty man, he said, "You have killed my father, so now
you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes." In
utter amazement and remorse his enemy exclaimed, "My son, now you have killed
me!" He meant, of course, that the hate in his own heart had been completely erased
by the forgiveness and kindness of the Indian chief.
Today in the Word, November 10, 1993.
In May 1924, a shocked nation learned two young men from Chicago, Richard Leopold and
Nathan Loeb, had killed 14-year-old Bobbie Franks. What made the crime so shocking, and
made Leopold and Loeb household names, was the reason for the killing. The two became
obsessed with the idea of committing the "perfect murder," and simply picked
young Franks as their victim. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but Leopold was
killed in a prison brawl in 1936. Claiming he wanted "a chance to find redemption for
myself and to help others," Nathan Loeb became a hospital technician at his parole in
1958. He died in 1971.
Today in the Word, October 3, 1992.
A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism
before she married Robert Browning in 1846. There's more to the story. In her youth,
Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were
married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father's disapproval. After the
wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But
even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship.
Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she
received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had
been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English
literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth
might have been restored.
Daily Walk, May 30, 1992.
In the 14th century, Robert Bruce of Scotland was leading his men in a battle to gain
independence from England. Near the end of the conflict, the English wanted to capture
Bruce to keep him from the Scottish crown. So they put his own bloodhounds on his trail.
When the bloodhounds got close, Bruce could hear their baying. His attendant said,
"We are done for. They are on your trail, and they will reveal your hiding
place." Bruce replied, "It's all right." Then he headed for a stream that
flowed through the forest. He plunged in and waded upstream a short distance. When he came
out on the other bank, he was in the depths of the forest. Within minutes, the hounds,
tracing their master's steps, came to the bank. They went no farther. The English soldiers
urged them on, but the trail was broken. The stream had carried the scent away. A short
time later, the crown of Scotland rested on the head of Robert Bruce. The memory of our
sins, prodded on by Satan, can be like those baying dogs--but a stream flows, red with the
blood of God's own Son. By grace through faith we are safe. No sin-hound can touch us. The
trail is broken by the precious blood of Christ. "The purpose of the cross,"
someone observed, "is to repair the irreparable."
E. Lutzer, Putting Your Past Behind You, Here's
There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away,
and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last
desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read:
Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven.
I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love
from their fathers.
Bits & Pieces, October 15, 1992, pp. 13.
Chuck Swindoll reports that a seminary student in Chicago faced a forgiveness
test. Although he preferred to work in some kind of ministry, the only job he could find
was driving a bus on Chicago's south side. One day a gang of tough teens got on board and
refused to pay the fare. After a few days of this, the seminarian spotted a policeman on
the corner, stopped the bus, and reported them. The officer made them pay, but then he got
off. When the bus rounded a corner, the gang robbed the seminarian and beat him severely.
He pressed charges and the gang was rounded up. They were found guilty. But as soon as the
jail sentence was given, the young Christian saw their spiritual need and felt pity for
them. So he asked the judge if he could serve their sentences for them. The gang members
and the judge were dumbfounded. "It's because I forgive you," he explained. His
request was denied, but he visited the young men in jail and led several of them to faith
"The man I ate dinner with tonight killed my brother." The words, spoken by a
stylish woman at a PF banquet in Seattle, amazed me. She told how John H. had murdered her
brother during a robbery, served 18 years at Walla Walla, then settled into life on a
dairy farm, where she had met him in 1983, 20 years after his crime. Compelled by Christ's
command to forgive, Ruth Youngsman had gone to her enemy and pronounced forgiveness. Then
she had taken him to her father's deathbed, prompting reconciliation.
Some wouldn't call this a success story: John didn't dedicate his life to Christ. But
at that PF banquet last fall, his voice cracked as he said, "Christians are the only
people I know that you can kill their son, and they'll make you a part of their family. I
don't know the Man Upstairs, but He sure is hounding me."
John's story is unfinished; he hasn't yet accepted Christ. But just as Christ died for
us regardless of our actions or acceptance, so Ruth forgave him without qualification.
Even more so, she became his friend.
Albert H. Quie, President of Prison Fellowship Ministries,
Jubilee, p. 5.
Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She
had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn't sleep.
Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. "His help
came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I
confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower,"
he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But
you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First
ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there's a final dong and it stops. I believe the
same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if
we've been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn't be surprised if the old
angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They're just the ding-dongs of the old bell
slowing down." "And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight
reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the
force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less
and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our
emotions, but also above our thoughts."
Corrie ten Boom.
A couple married for 15 years began having more than usual disagreements. They wanted
to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month they planned
to drop a slip in a "Fault" box. The boxes would provide a place to let the
other know about daily irritations. The wife was diligent in her efforts and approach:
"leaving the jelly top off the jar," "wet towels on the shower floor,"
"dirty socks not in hamper," on and on until the end of the month. After dinner,
at the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on what he had done
wrong. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same, the message
on each slip was, "I love you!"
Marie de Medicis, the Italian-born wife of King Henri IV of France, became the regent
for their son Louis after her husband's death in 1610. In later years her relationship
with Louis soured and they lived in a state of ongoing hostility. Marie also felt a deep
sense of betrayal when Cardinal Richelieu, whom she had helped in his rise to political
power, deserted her and went over to her son's side. While on her deathbed Marie was
visited by Fabio Chigi, who was papal nuncio of France. Marie vowed to forgive all of her
enemies, including Cardinal Richelieu. "Madam," asked Chigi, "as a mark of
reconciliation, will you send him the bracelet you wear on your arm?" "No,"
she replied firmly, "that would be too much."
True forgiveness is hard to extend because it demands that people let go of something
they value -- not a piece of jewelry, but pride, perhaps, as sense of justice, or desire
Daily Walk, May 27, 1992.
Rabbi David A. Nelson likes to tell the story of two brothers who went to their rabbi
to settle a longstanding feud. The rabbi got the two to reconcile their differences and
shake hands. As they were about to leave, he asked each one to make a wish for the other
in honor of the Jewish New Year. The first brother turned to the other and said, "I
wish you what you wish me." At that, the second brother threw up his hands and said,
"See, Rabbi, he's starting up again!"
Rabbi David A. Nelson.
This headline appeared in the Grand Rapids Press: "Convict Tells of a Torture that
Time Can't Change." The article described a newspaper reporter's interview with a man
who had been convicted of killing his wife. Here's how the writer described the scene:
"He leans forward from his chair. For a moment he says nothing. Finally he comments,
matter-of-factly, 'I'll never be the same. I have no illusions about that. I still have to
live with it.'" Since he was being considered for parole, the prisoner was asked by
the reporter if he deserved to be let out. He responded by saying, "Out? I lost a
wife, and I can't replace her. It'll always be on my mind, because no matter what, I still
bear the final responsibility. There's no amount of time I could do that would change
anything. I could do 100 years or 1,000 years; how do you set a number for something like
Grand Rapids Press.
When Narvaez, the Spanish patriot, lay dying, his father-confessor asked him whether he
had forgiven all his enemies. Narvaez looked astonished and said, "Father, I have no
enemies, I have shot them all."
Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), the flying department of Wycliffe Bible
Translators--had flown thousands of hours over a 25 year span without one fatal accident
before April 7, 1972. On that day, a Piper Aztec lost its right engine and crashed in
Papua New Guinea, killing all seven persons aboard. The Aztec had just rolled out of the
Wycliffe maintenance hangar the day before following a 100 hour inspection. The chief
mechanic was stunned when he heard the news of the crash. Reviewing in his mind each step
he had performed in inspecting that right engine, he suddenly recoiled in horror. He
remembered that he had been interrupted while tightening a fuel line and had never
returned to finish the job! That faulty connection had allowed raw fuel to spray out and
catch fire while the Aztec was in flight. The mechanic's guilt at being responsible for
the deaths of his companions crushed him. For days he did not know what to do. The other
mechanics tried to help him, as did his own family. But when the family of Doug Hunt, the
pilot who was killed in the accident, was preparing to return to their home in New
Zealand, the mechanic knew he had to see them, talk with them and beg their forgiveness.
He could barely get out the words as he sobbed in their presence. "That hand
there," he said, looking at his right hand, "took Doug's life." Glennis
Hunt, Doug's widow, embraced him. "Glennis sat by me and held the hand that took her
husband's life," he later wrote, "and another JAARS pilot sat on my other side
with a demonstration of love, comfort, and forgiveness. That was the most significant
first step in the healing process."
Max Lucado, God Came Near, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 101.
In A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World, Ron Lee Davis retells the true story
of a priest in the Philippines, a much- loved man of God who carried the burden of a
secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no
sense of God's forgiveness.
In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which
she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he
said, "The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your
priest committed while he was in seminary." The woman agreed. A few days later the
priest asked., "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?"
"Yes, he did," she replied.
"And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?"
"Well, what did he say?"
"He said, 'I don't remember'"
What God forgives, He forgets.
David H. Bolton.
Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the
patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could
walk out the next day!
Today in the Word, March 1989, p. 8.
On the Lord's day a group of missionaries and believers in New Guinea were gathered
together to observe the Lord's Supper. After one young man sat down, a missionary
recognized that a sudden tremor had passed through the young man's body that indicated he
was under a great nervous strain. Then in a moment all was quiet again. The missionary
whispered, "What was it that troubled you?" "Ah," he said, "But
the man who just came in killed and ate the body of my father. And now he has come in to
remember the Lord with us. At first I didn't know whether I could endure it. But it is all
right now. He is washed in the same precious blood." And so together they had
Communion. It is a marvelous thing, the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Does the world
know anything of this?
In a dream, Martin Luther found himself being attacked by Satan. The devil unrolled a
long scroll containing a list of Luther's sins, and held it before him. On reaching the
end of the scroll Luther asked the devil, "Is that all?" "No," came
the reply, and a second scroll was thrust in front of him. Then, after a second came a
third. But now the devil had no more. "You've forgotten something," Luther
exclaimed triumphantly. "Quickly write on each of them, 'The blood of Jesus Christ
God's son cleanses us from all sins.'"
K. Koch, Occult Bondage and Deliverance, p. 10.
Forgiveness is a funny thing; it warms the heart and cools the sting.
William A. Ward.
Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and
it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes
that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who
nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands,
obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You've probably guessed
what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It
took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired
and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it
to the same young boy who dropped the first one. That's true forgiveness.
James Newton, Uncommon Friends.
Button in a tourist shop: to err is human, to forgive is out of the question.
Opaquing fluid is the magical liquid that covers over your errors, your
unfortunate slip-ups. You brush on the liquid and start all over again--hopefully this
time with no unfortunate slip-ups. Opaquing fluid is forgiveness, an obliteration of a
goof with no telltale traces that the goof happened at all.
John V Chervokas, How to Keep God Alive from 9 to 5.
The art of forgiving is a spiritual grace every Christian should develop. Because this
is so difficult to put into practice, he offers the following suggestions:
1) Begin by assuring yourself that compared to Christ's suffering you haven't been
seriously wronged at all.
2) Recall the many kind deeds that have been shown to you, perhaps even by the person who
has harmed you.
3) List the benefits you have received from the Lord.
4) Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day.
5) Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you.
6) Go even further by looking for an opportunity to help him.
7) If the offense is especially hard to forget, try to erase the memory by thinking
gracious and generous thoughts.
8) Finally, before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase
from the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Roy L. Smith.
Some people try to punish themselves for their sins. They do not stand on the promises
of forgiveness and Christ' propitiation. "Many years ago, a father and his daughter
were walking through the grass on the Canadian prairie. In the distance, they saw a
prairie fire, and they realized that it would soon engulf them. The father knew there was
only one way of escape: They would quickly begin a fire right where they were and burn a
large patch of grass. When the huge fire drew near, they then would stand on the section
that had already burned. When the flames did approach them, the girl was terrified but her
father assured her, 'The flames can't get to us. We are standing where the fire has
Erwin Lutzer, Failure, The Back Door to Success.
Richard Hoefler's book Will Daylight Come? includes A homey illustration of how
sin enslaves and forgiveness frees. A little boy visiting his grandparents as given his
first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came
back to Grandma's back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly.
The stone hit, and the duck fell dead.
The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to look up and
see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch that
day, Grandma said, "Sally, let's wash the dishes." But Sally said, "Johnny
told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn't you, Johnny?" And she
whispered to him, "Remember the duck! So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing. Grandma said, "I'm
sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper." Sally smiled and said, "That's all
taken care of. Johnny wants to do it." Again she whispered, "Remember the
duck." Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing
both his chores and Sally's, finally he couldn't stand it. He confessed to Grandma that
he'd killed the duck. "I know, Johnny," she said, giving him a hug. "I was
standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I
wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Japan invaded, conquered, and occupied Korea. Of
all of their oppressors, Japan was the most ruthless. They overwhelmed the Koreans with a
brutality that would sicken the strongest of stomachs. Their crimes against women and
children were inhuman. Many Koreans live today with the physical and emotional scars from
the Japanese occupation.
One group singled out for concentrated oppression was the Christians. When the Japanese
army overpowered Korea one of the first things they did was board up the evangelical
churches and eject most foreign missionaries. It has always fascinated me how people fail
to learn from history. Conquering nations have consistently felt that shutting up churches
would shut down Christianity. It didn't work in Rome when the church was established, and
it hasn't worked since. Yet somehow the Japanese thought they would have a different
success record. The conquerors started by refusing to allow churches to meet and jailing
many of the key Christian spokesmen. The oppression intensified as the Japanese military
increased its profile in the South Pacific. The "Land of the Rising Sum" spread
its influence through a reign of savage brutality. Anguish filled the hearts of the
oppressed -- and kindled hatred deep in their souls. One pastor persistently entreated his
local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. His nagging was finally
accommodated, and the police chief offered to unlock his church ... for one meeting.
It didn't take long for word to travel. Committed Christians starving for an
opportunity for unhindered worship quickly made their plans. Long before dawn on that
promised Sunday, Korean families throughout a wide area made their way to the church. They
passed the staring eyes of their Japanese captors, but nothing was going to steal their
joy. As they closed the doors behind them they shut out the cares of oppression and shut
in a burning spirit anxious to glorify their Lord.
The Korean church has always had a reputation as a singing church. Their voices of
praise could not be concealed inside the little wooden frame sanctuary. Song after song
rang through the open windows into the bright Sunday morning. For a handful of peasants
listening nearby, the last two songs this congregation sang seemed suspended in time. It
was during a stanza of "Nearer My God to Thee" that the Japanese police chief
waiting outside gave the orders. The people toward the back of the church could hear them
when they barricaded the doors, but no one realized that they had doused the church with
kerosene until they smelled the smoke. The dried wooden skin of the small church quickly
ignited. Fumes filled the structure as tongues of flame began to lick the baseboard on the
There was an immediate rush for the windows. But momentary hope recoiled in horror as
the men climbing out the windows came crashing back in -- their bodies ripped by a hail of
bullets. The good pastor knew it was the end. With a calm that comes from confidence, he
led his congregation in a hymn whose words served as a fitting farewell to earth and a
loving salutation to heaven. The first few words were all the prompting the terrified
worshipers needed. With smoke burning their eyes, they instantly joined as one to sing
their hope and leave their legacy. Their song became a serenade to the horrified and
helpless witnesses outside. Their words also tugged at the hearts of the cruel men who
oversaw this flaming execution of the innocent.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?
Just before the roof collapsed they sang the last verse, their words an eternal
testimony to their faith.
But drops of grief can ne'er repay
the debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
'Tis all that I can do!
At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away --
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.
The strains of music and wails of children were lost in a roar of flames. The elements
that once formed bone and flesh mixed with the smoke and dissipated into the air. The
bodies that once housed life fused with the charred rubble of a building that once housed
a church. But the souls who left singing finished their chorus in the throne room of God.
Clearing the incinerated remains was the easy part. Erasing the hate would take decades.
For some of the relatives of the victims, this carnage was too much. Evil had stooped to a
new low, and there seemed to be no way to curb their bitter loathing of the Japanese.
In the decades that followed, that bitterness was passed on to a new generation. The
Japanese, although conquered, remained a hated enemy. The monument the Koreans built at
the location of the fire not only memorialized the people who died, but stood as a mute
reminder of their pain.
Inner rest? How could rest coexist with a bitterness deep as marrow in the bones?
Suffering, of course, is a part of life. People hurt people. Almost all of us have
experienced it at some time. Maybe you felt it when you came home to find that your spouse
had abandoned you, or when your integrity was destroyed by a series of well-timed lies, or
when your company was bled dry by a partner. It kills you inside. Bitterness clamps down
on your soul like iron shackles.
The Korean people who found it too hard to forgive could not enjoy the "peace that
passes all understanding." Hatred choked their joy.
It wasn't until 1972 that any hope came. A group of Japanese pastors traveling through
Korea came upon the memorial. When they read the details of the tragedy and the names of
the spiritual brothers and sisters who had perished, they were overcome with shame. Their
country had sinned, and even though none of them were personally involved (some were not
even born at the time of the tragedy), they still felt a national guilt that could not be
They returned to Japan committed to right a wrong. There was an immediate outpouring of
love from their fellow believers. They raised ten million yen ($25,000). The money was
transferred through proper channels and a beautiful white church building was erected on
the sight of the tragedy. When the dedication service for the new building was held, a
delegation from Japan joined the relatives and special guests. Although their generosity
was acknowledged and their attempts at making peace appreciated, the memories were still
there. Hatred preserves pain. It keeps the wounds open and the hurts fresh. The Koreans'
bitterness had festered for decades. Christian brothers or not, these Japanese were
descendants of a ruthless enemy.
The speeches were made, the details of the tragedy recalled, and the names of the dead
honored. It was time to bring the service to a close. Someone in charge of the agenda
thought it would be appropriate to conclude with the same two songs that were sung the day
the church was burned. The song leader began the words to "Nearer My God to
Thee." But something remarkable happened as the voices mingled on the familiar
melody. As the memories of the past mixed with the truth of the song, resistance started
to melt. The inspiration that gave hope to a doomed collection of churchgoers in a past
generation gave hope once more. The song leader closed the service with the hymn "At
The normally stoic Japanese could not contain themselves. The tears that began to fill
their eyes during the song suddenly gushed from deep inside. They turned to their Korean
spiritual relatives and begged them to forgive. The guarded, calloused hearts of the
Koreans were not quick to surrender. But the love of the Japanese believers --
unintimidated by decades of hatred -- tore at the Koreans' emotions.
At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away ...
One Korean turned toward a Japanese brother. Then another. And then the floodgates
holding back a wave of emotion let go. The Koreans met their new Japanese friends in the
middle. They clung to each other and wept. Japanese tears of repentance and Korean tears
of forgiveness intermingled to bathe the site of an old nightmare.
Heaven had sent the gift of reconciliation to a little white church in Korea.
Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway,
When we are wronged in some way, our natural inclination is to fight back, to get even.
Needless to say, this reaction, though thoroughly human, is almost always in error.
"Forgiveness," said Epictetus, "is better than revenge, for forgiveness is
the sign of a gentle nature, but revenge is the sign of a savage nature."
A dramatic example is the experience of a Hungarian refugee -- to protect his privacy
we'll call him Joseph Kudar. Kudar was a successful young lawyer in Hungary before the
uprisings in that country in 1956. A strong believer in freedom for his country, he fought
Soviet tanks in the streets of Budapest with his friends. When the uprising failed, he was
forced to flee the country.
When Kudar arrived in the U.S. he had no money, no job, no friends. He was, however,
well educated; he spoke and wrote several languages, including English. For several months
he tried to get a job in a law office, but because of his lack of familiarity with
American law, he received only polite refusals.
Finally, it occurred to him that with his knowledge of language he might be able to get
a job with an import-export company. He selected one such company and wrote a letter to
the owner. Two weeks later he received an answer, but was hardly prepared for the
vindictiveness of the man's reply. Among other things, it said that even if they did need
someone, they wouldn't hire him because he couldn't even write good English. Crushed,
Kudar's hurt quickly turned to anger. What right did this rude, arrogant man have to tell
him he couldn't write the language! The man was obviously crude and uneducated -- his
letter was chock-full of grammatical errors!
Kudar sat down and, in the white heat of anger, wrote a scathing reply, calculated to
rip the man to shreds. When he'd finished, however, as he was reading it over, his anger
began to drain away. Then he remembered the biblical admonition, "A soft answer
turneth away wrath." No, he wouldn't mail the letter. Maybe the man was right.
English was not his native tongue. Maybe he did need further study in it. Possibly this
man had done him a favor by making him realize he did need to work harder on perfecting
Kudar tore up the letter and wrote another. This time he apologized for the previous
letter, explained his situation, and thanked the man for pointing out his need for further
study. Two days later he received a phone call inviting him to New York for an interview.
A week later he went to work for them as a correspondent. Later, Joseph Kudar became vice
president and executive officer of the company, destined to succeed the man he had hated
and sought revenge against for a fleeting moment -- and then resisted.
Bits & Pieces, March 31, 1994, pp. 12-15.
The hospital was unusually quiet that bleak January evening, quiet and still like the
air before a storm. I stood in the nurses' station on the 7th floor and glanced at the
clock. It was 9 p.m. I threw a stethoscope around my neck and headed for room 712, last
room on the hall. Room 712 had a new patient. Mr. Williams. A man all alone. A man
strangely silent about his family.
As I entered the room, Mr. Williams looked up eagerly, but dropped his eyes when he saw
it was only me, his nurse. I pressed the stethoscope over his chest and listened. Strong,
slow, even beating. Just what I wanted to hear. There seemed little indication he had
suffered a slight heart attack a few hours earlier.
He looked up from his starched white bed. "Nurse, would you--" He hesitated,
tears filling his eyes. Once before he had started to ask me a question, but had changed
his mind. I touched his hand, waiting. He brushed away a tear. "Would you call my
daughter? Tell her I've had a heart attack. A slight one. You see, I live alone and she is
the only family I have." His respiration suddenly speeded up. I turned his nasal
oxygen up to eight liters a minute. "Of course I'll call her." I said, studying
his face. He gripped the sheets and pulled himself forward, his face tense with urgency.
"Will you call her right away--as soon as you can?" He was breathing fast--too
fast. "I'll call her the very first thing," I said, patting his shoulder. I
flipped off the light. He closed his eyes, such young blue eyes in his 50-year-old face.
Room 712 was dark except for a faint night light under the sink. Oxygen gurgled in the
green tubes above his bed. Reluctant to leave, I moved through the shadowy silence to the
window. The panes were cold. Below a foggy mist curled through the hospital parking lot.
"Nurse," he called, "could you get me a pencil and paper?" I dug a
scrap of yellow paper and a pen from my pocket and set it on the bedside table.
I walked back to the nurses' station and sat in a squeaky swivel chair by the phone.
Mr. Williams daughter was listed on his chart as the next of kin. I got her number from
information and dialed. Her soft voice answered. "Janie, this is Sue Kidd, a
registered nurse at the hospital. I'm calling about your father. He was admitted tonight
with a slight heart attack and--" "No!" she screamed into the phone,
startling me. "He's not dying is he?" "His condition is stable at the
moment," I said, trying hard to sound convincing. Silence. I bit my lip. "You
must not let him die!" she said. Her voice was so utterly compelling that my hand
trembled on the phone. "He is getting the very best care." "But you don't
understand," she pleaded. "My daddy and I haven't spoken in almost a year. We
had a terrible argument on my 21st birthday, over my boyfriend. I ran out of the house.
I--I haven't been back. All these months I've wanted to go to him for forgiveness. The
last thing I said to him was, 'I hate you.'"
Her voice cracked and I heard her heave great agonizing sobs. I sat, listening, tears
burning my eyes. A father and a daughter, so lost to each other. Then I was thinking of my
father, many miles away. It has been so long since I had said, "I love you."
As Janie struggled to control her tears, I breathed a prayer. "Please, God, let
this daughter find forgiveness." "I'm coming. Now! I'll be there in 30
minutes," she said. Click. She had hung up. I tried to busy myself with a stack of
charts on the desk. I couldn't concentrate. Room 712. I knew I had to get back to 712. I
hurried down the hall nearly in a run. I opened the door.
Mr. Williams lay unmoving. I reached for his pulse. There was none.
"Code 99. Room 712. Code 99. Stat." The alert was shooting through the
hospital within seconds after I called the switchboard through the intercom by the bed.
Mr. Williams had had a cardiac arrest. With lightning speed I leveled the bed and bent
over his mouth, breathing air into his lungs. I positioned my hands over his chest and
compressed. One, two, three. I tried to count. At 15 I moved back to his mouth and
breathed as deeply as I could. Where was help? Again I compressed and breathed. Compressed
and breathed. He could not die! "O God," I prayed. "His daughter is coming.
Don't let it end this way." The door burst open. Doctors and nurses poured into the
room pushing emergency equipment. A doctor took over the manual compression of the heart.
A tube was inserted through his mouth as an airway. Nurses plunged syringes of medicine
into the intravenous tubing. I connected the heart monitor. Nothing. Not a beat. My own
heart pounded. "God, don't let it end like this. Not in bitterness and hatred. His
daughter is coming. Let her find peace." "Stand back," cried a doctor. I
handed him the paddles for the electrical shock to the heart. He placed them on Mr.William's chest. Over and over we tried. But nothing. No response. Mr. Williams was
dead. A nurse unplugged the oxygen. The gurgling stopped. One by one they left, grim and
silent. How could this happen? How? I stood by his bed, stunned. A cold wind rattled the
window, pelting the panes with snow. Outside--everywhere--seemed a bed of blackness, cold
and dark. How could I face his daughter? When I left the room, I saw her against the wall
by a water fountain. A doctor who had been inside 712 only moments before, stood at her
side, talking to her, gripping her elbow. Then he moved on, leaving her slumped against
the wall. Such pathetic hurt reflected from her face. Such wounded eyes. She knew. The
doctor had told her that her father was gone.
I took her hand and led her into the nurses' lounge. We sat on little green stools,
neither saying a word. She stared straight ahead at a pharmaceutical calendar,
glass-faced, almost breakable-looking. "Janie, I'm so sorry," I said. It was
pitifully inadequate. "I never hated him, you know. I loved him," she said. God,
please help her, I thought.
Suddenly she whirled toward me. "I want to see him." My first thought was,
Why put yourself through more pain? Seeing him will only make it worse. But I got up and
wrapped my arm around her. We walked slowly down the corridor to 712. Outside the door I
squeezed her hand, wishing she would change her mind about going inside. She pushed open
the door. We moved to the bed, huddled together, taking small steps in unison. Janie
leaned over the bed and buried her face in the sheets. I tried not to look at her, at this
sad, sad good-bye. I backed against the bedside table. My hand fell upon a scrap of yellow
paper. I picked it up. It read:
My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know that you love
me. I love you too. Daddy
The note was shaking in my hands as I thrust it toward Janie. She read it once. Then
twice. Her tormented face grew radiant. Peace began to glisten in her eyes. She hugged the
scrap of paper to her breast. "Thank You, God," I whispered, looking up at the
window. A few crystal stars blinked through the blackness. A snowflake hit the window and
melted away, gone forever. Life seemed as fragile as a snowflake on the window. But thank
You, God, that relationships, sometimes fragile as snowflakes, can be mended together
again--but there is not a moment to spare.
I crept from the room and hurried to the phone. I would call my father. I would say,
"I love you."
Guideposts Magazine, 1979.
Forgiveness is hard. Especially in a marriage tense with past troubles, tormented by
fears of rejection and humiliation, and torn by suspicion and distrust. Forgiveness hurts.
Especially when it must be extended to a husband or wife who doesn't deserve it, who
hasn't earned it, who may misuse it. It hurts to forgive. Forgiveness costs. Especially in
marriage when it means accepting instead of demanding repayment for the wrong done; where
it means releasing the other instead of exacting revenge; where it means reaching out in
love instead of relinquishing resentments. It costs to forgive...Stated psychologically,
forgiveness takes place when the person who was offended and justly angered by the
offender bears his own anger, and lets the other go free. Anger cannot be ignored, denied,
or forgotten without doing treachery in hidden ways. It must be dealt with responsibly,
honestly, in a decisive act of the will. Either the injured and justifiably angry person
vents his feelings on the other in retaliation (That is an attempt at achieving justice as
accuser, judge, and hangman all in one) or the injured person may choose to accept his
angry feelings, bear the burden of them personally, find release through confession and
prayer and set the other person free. This is forgiveness.
David Augsburger, Cherishable: Love and Marriage,
There is one eternal principal which will be valid as long as the world lasts. The
principle is -- Forgiveness is a costly thing. Human forgiveness is costly. A son or a
daughter may go wrong; a father or a mother may forgive; but that forgiveness has brought
tears ... There was a price of a broken heart to pay. Divine forgiveness is costly. God is
love, but God is holiness. God, least of all, can break the great moral laws on which the
universe is built. Sin must have its punishment or the very structure of life
disintegrates. And God alone can pay the terrible price that is necessary before men can
be forgiven. Forgiveness is never a case of saying: "It's all right; it doesn't
matter." Forgiveness is the most costly thing in the world.
William Barclay in The Letter to Hebrews.
We trample the blood of the Son of God if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry
for our sins. The only explanation for the forgiveness of God and for the unfathomable
depth of His forgetting is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the outcome
of our personal realization of the atonement which He has worked out for us. It does not
matter who or what we are; there is absolute reinstatement into God by the death of Jesus
Christ and by no other way, not because Jesus Christ pleads, but because He died. It is
not earned, but accepted. All the pleading which deliberately refuses to recognize the
Cross is of no avail; it is battering at a door other than the one that Jesus has opened.
Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement is a
propitiation whereby God, through the death of Jesus, makes an unholy man holy.
If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our
greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest
need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been
pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; But our greatest need was forgiveness, so
God sent us a Savior.
To forgive like thee, blessed Son of God! I take this as the law of my life. Thou who
hast given the command, givest also the power. Thou who hadst love enough to forgive me,
wilt also fill me with love and teach me to forgive others. Thou who dist give me the
first blessings, in the joy of having my sins forgiven, wilt surly give me the second
blessing, and deeper joy of forgiving others as thou hast forgiven me. Oh, fill me with
the faith in the power of thy love in me, to make me like Thyself, to enable me to
the seventy times seven, and so to love and bless all around me.
O My Jesus, Thy example is my law: I must be like Thee. And Thy example is Mt gospel
too. I can be as thou art. Thou art at once my law and my life. What Thou demandest of me
by Thy example, Thou workest in me by Thy life. I shall forgive like Thee.
Lord, only lead me deeper into my dependence on Thee, into all sufficiency of Thy grace
and the blessed keeping which comes from Thy indwelling. Then shall I believe and prove
the all-prevailing power of love. I shall forgive even as Christ has forgiven me. Amen.
O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will.
But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the
fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another,
our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this
trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we
have borne be their forgiveness.
Found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck consentration camp.
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin? and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
Swear by Thy self, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now and heretofore;
And, having done that, Thou hast done,
I fear no more.
John Donne, 1623.
A Sunday School teacher had just concluded her lesson and wanted to make sure she had
made her point. She said, "Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain
forgiveness of sin?" There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a
small boy spoke up. "Sin," he said.
Bits & Pieces, May, 1991.