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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Amazing Story of Forgiveness

The LDS Aaronic Priesthood Manual II has a wonderful lesson about forgiveness that I got to help teach last Sunday. I was amazed at how the rowdy group of teenage boys were touched and quietly contemplative about the powerful example of a Dutch woman's forgiveness of a Nazi tormentor. Go to the link above to read the full copyrighted story. Below is an excerpt, describing Corrie ten Boom's reaction when, after preaching a sermon on forgiveness after war, she was asked for forgiveness from a once-cruel German guard from the camp where she sufferred and where her sister was killed:

“I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be 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 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.”

2 comments:

Peggy Snow Cahill said...

Thank you for sharing that story. Forgiveness is such a misunderstood concept. I am in the counseling field, and I have heard even LDS counselors fall into the trap the field of psychology teaches that forgiveness is not necessary (or even desirable) for healing to occur. I have borne my testimony to members that forgiveness is not between us and the one who hurt us, but between us and the Lord. It is a matter of saying we trust the Lord to deliver justice, so we can leave it in His hands, and not need to go on hating and hurting. As the character Iovar said in Willa Cather's "O Pioneers": Blame keeps wounds open; only forgiveness helps them to heal. And, if we do not forgive, the greater sin is in us, and we will not be forgiven of our own sins.
There is no peace like forgiveness, and none without it.
Thanks for touching my heart.
Peggy

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Heather.
I saw the movie the story of forgiveness and it was a moving movie. It made me think about how people could stop street racing i think that street racing is stupid. It was a sad movie becasue to people that did not do anything wrong were killed becasue of a kid that was street racing i am 13 years old and i thought that this movie was one of my favorites

Heather