I asked a question about forgiveness in relation to Jesus’ words on the cross, Father, forgive them. Could you forgive someone that raped and murdered your wife or daughter? Brutally killed your son? None of us have yet reached the point that we could honestly say yes. Forgiveness is one of the traits of Christ that takes a lifetime to learn and emulate, if then.
I was reminded of a illustration by Simon Wiesenthal that became the basis of his book, The Sunflower. In discussing marriage in his book The Power of Love, Dr. David Jeremiah uses the same illustration and applies the message of Christ to it.
Resolve to Forgive the One Who Has Injured YouBehind that explosive nature is the hurt you have never dealt with, the injury you never forgave, the person who did something to you that was unforgivable, so you didnâ€™t forgive them.
Lewis Smedes, in his book Forgive and Forget, does away with the old adage that if you donâ€™t forget what they did, you havenâ€™t forgiven them. He reminds us that forgiving and forgetting are not always simultaneous. There is a vast difference between deciding not to remember and forgetting. When someone does something to you that hurts, and they scar your life, I do not believe that it is possible for the human mind to totally erase that event from memory. Forgiving and forgetting simply means â€œI forgive you and I choose not to remember that against you.â€Simon Wiesenthal tells of his own terrible crisis of forgiveness in a concentration camp. Wiesenthal, assigned to clean rubbish out of a hospital that the Germans had improvised for wounded soldiers, was ordered to speak to a dying young SS trooper. The soldier wanted to confess the terrible things he had done so that he could be forgiven, otherwise he could not die in peace. What had he done? His group was ordered to plant full cans of gasoline in a house, then march about 200 Jews in, cramming them in until they could hardly move. Next they threw grenades through the windows to set the house on fire, and the soldiers were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to jump out of a window. The young soldier recalled, â€œBehind the window of the second floor I saw a man with a small child in his arms. His clothing was alight. By his side stood a woman, doubtless the mother of the child. With his free hand, the man covered the childâ€™s eyes, and then he jumped into the street. Seconds later the mother followed. We shot. Oh, God, I shall never forget it. It haunts me!â€ said the patient. â€œI know that what I have told you is terrible. I have longed to talk about it to a Jew and beg forgiveness of him. I know that what I am asking is almost too much, but without your answer, I cannot die in peace.â€Silence. The sun was high in heaven. God was somewhere. But here, two strangers were all by themselves, caught in the crisis of forgiveness. A member of the super race begged to be forgiven by a member of the condemned race. Wiesenthal tells us what he did: â€œI stood up and looked in his direction, at his folded hands. At last, I made up my mind. Without a word, I left the room. The German went to God unforgiven by man.â€Wiesenthal survived the concentration camp, but he could not forget the SS trooper. He wondered, troubled for a long time, whether he should have forgiven the soldier. He told the story in his book, The Sunflower, and he ended it with an awful question for every reader: What would you have done?The highest standard of forgiveness for any of us is the forgiveness of God for our sin. He tells us in His Word that we can forgive as He forgave. My friends, I believe with all my heart that the secret to an evil disposition is the Christian grace of forgiveness.Who hurt you? Who walked into your life one day in the past and destroyed everything you believed in? Who was the monster in your history that makes you so angry that you explode at everyone around you? As God for Christâ€™s sake has forgiven you, you must also forgive. You will share, if you do, the testimony of hundreds and hundreds of people: â€œI was chained to that part of my past until I let it go by saying, â€˜I forgive you.â€™ â€ Forgiveness gives you freedom. Forgiveness makes it possible for you not to be provoked anymore. Forgiveness opens up your heart to the heart of the one who injured you. Resolve to forgive the one who injured you.