Forgiveness

Corrie Ten Boom was a blest survivor of a Nazi concentration camp.   When released from Ravensbruck, the Good and Gracious Lord led her into a world-wide Christian ministry of speaking and book writing. 

The following (short story) is taken from Chapter 7 of Corrie's well known book, “Tramp for the Lord.” It's a tremendous demonstration of forgiveness:

"Love Your Enemy" -- by Corrie Ten Boom

“We feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." -- [TLB]  Romans 5:5

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 like 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.  And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, ‘NO FISHING ALLOWED.’”

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!

The place was Ravensbruck, and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard – one of the most cruel guards.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out:
  “A fine message, Fraulein!  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, Fraulein.”  Again, the hand came out, “Will you forgive me?”


And 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 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.  “Jesus, help me!”  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.  But even so, I realized it was not my love.  I had tried, and did not have the power.  It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”


Note:  Scriptures [below] dealing with forgiveness:

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins." --  1 John 4:10


"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."  --  Ephesians 1:7

Old Testament:

Psalm 51:1-17 -- Our sinfulness [deserving of divine punishment] before a holy and just God, and His ready and available forgiveness – Note: Verse, 7

Psalm 130:1-5 -- There is forgiveness with Creator God


New Testament:


Luke 15:10-32 -- Christ parable of the Lost Son and the Loving Father -- A story of forgiveness

John 8:1-11 -- Christ forgives the woman caught in audultery and about to be stoned

Ephesians 1:7 -- Forgiveness in the blood of Christ

Matthew 18:21-35 -- Peter's question about forgiveness & Christ’s Parable of the “Unmerciful Servant” and His teaching of the utter necessity of forgiveness.  Note: Verses, 34-35 -- Also, note:  Forgiveness works to the favor and benefit of the one doing the forgiving.

Luke 11:1-13 -- Christ teaches His disciples the “Lord’s Prayer.”  Please note, Verse, 11:4a

Matthew 6:1-15 -- Christ’s teaching on the humble giving of charity; prayer and also the teaching of forgiveness. Note: Verses, 14-15


"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins." --  1 John 4:10


"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."  --  Ephesians 1:7