by Angela Martin
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” – Luke 6:37
Pastor’s wives are often placed on a pedestal high enough to trigger altitude sickness. People can assume that Genesis 17:1, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” was written for Pastors and their wives. Actually, Acts 10:26 is probably more befitting: “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!”
The truth is that Marty, my two children and I are not perfect. I face challenges and temptations. I fight with my husband, get frustrated with my children, and struggle to forgive some people. I am not super-human. I have feelings and insecurities. I make mistakes. But I care. I want to be approachable to you. I cannot live up to perfection or balance on a pedestal. God is working in my life in the areas of influence, and as I mentioned on Sunday, in the area of forgiveness. Rather than cover what I talked about on Sunday, I would like to summarize a powerful story of forgiveness.
It is the story of Corrie ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. She was imprisoned for her actions. She was speaking in a church in Munich in 1947 when she saw him. 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. This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where Corrie and her sister, Betsie, had been sent.
There he stood in front of her, 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!” Corrie was not sure how she recognized him, but she remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt.
He admitted he was a guard at Ravensbruck. “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. Fräulen, – again the hand came out—will you forgive me?”
Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply by asking? She stood there with a coldness clutching her heart. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. And so mechanically, she thrust her hand into his. As she did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in her shoulder, raced down her arm, sprang into their joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood her whole being, bringing tears to her eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” she cried. “With all my heart!” Corrie later said that “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover the prisoner was you.”
For some people, like Corrie ten Boom, the changes in their lives are drastic. For others, they start out with small changes like forgiving slights, or actions in the past that have been blown out of proportion. But, start somewhere and start now. Things will not work well, when your mind is filled with vivid pictures of times when it hasn’t. If you’re wondering how to heal the past and get some forward momentum going, the answer is without a doubt, forgiveness.
How about you? No doubt there are countless people who have injured you; they have said false things about you; they have wounded you with their actions and reactions. Maybe the hardship came from a supervisor at work, or a neighbor across the street, or a teacher in school, but regardless of where it came from, the fallout from unforgiveness is more harmful, to you.
My prayer is that you learn to forgive.
- What if I cannot forgive myself?
- How do I know if I have forgiven?
- How quickly should I forgive? (Matthew 5:25)
- Women often ask, “What if the offense was a grave one and I am still hurting? Shouldn’t I wait to forgive until I can be honest about it? Wouldn’t it be hypocritical to do otherwise?”
- What does the cross have to do with our ability to forgive?
- Pray and ask God for the courage and strength to forgive those who have wronged you.