But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15
If ever there was a living saint, it was Corrie ten Boom. Should you ever have the opportunity of visiting Amsterdam, take the train from Central Station for a 20-minute ride to Haarlem, a delightful Dutch town. Walk past the city square and just off this, past the old church where Corrie’s nephew was the organist, there you will find a watch shop made famous by the movie, “The Hiding Place.”
Here lived a Dutch family, committed Christians when World War 2 broke out. Seeing so many Jews being rounded up and sent on one-way trips to the concentration camps of the Third Reich, the ten Booms decided to fight back in their own compassionate way by making their home a “safe house” for Jews who would be hidden, given new identity papers, different clothes, and money to escape the Gestapo’s grasp.
Hanging in the window of their clock shop was a small triangular sign advertising the famous Tissot watches made in Switzerland. When the sign was out, it was safe for Jews to come to the ten Boom watch shop, but when it was missing, this was a sign that they should come back at a later time because they deemed it unsafe.
A neighbor, however, figured out what the Tissot sign in the window was about and reported the ten Booms to the Gestapo. They were eventually arrested. Within a few days Corrie’s aged father died, and she and her sister Betsie were sent to Ravensbruk Concentration Camp.
There Betsie died; and a week before Corrie was scheduled for execution, through an administrative fluke, she was released. God had spared her life.
After the devastating war ended, Corrie went back to Germany as an ambassador of good will, and wherever she went she stressed the importance of forgiveness. One evening, however, her message of reconciliation was put to the test.
Having just spoken in a bombed-out church, she was standing in the front greeting people when walking down the aisle was a man she recognized—one of the guards who had been at Ravensbruk who had cruelly whacked the women on the buttocks as he drove them to the showers when they had first arrived there. He was wearing an old brown topcoat and carried a hat in his hand, but when she saw him in her mind’s eye, she envisioned the skull and the crossed bones on the visored cap of the SS guard and the altogether too familiar blue-gray uniform he had worn.
Reaching the front of the church, he extended his hand towards hers saying what a fine message she had brought. Corrie was frozen. Hatred welled up in her heart. Touching him was the last thing she wanted to do, but she remembered how she had just told the people that if we do not forgive each other, God will not forgive us either.
“God,” she prayed, “help me to forgive him.”
Corrie told how a warm feeling began at the top of her head and surged through her body. Suddenly she extended her hand and said, “I forgive you… I forgive you with all my heart.”
Writing of that experience she said, “Forgiveness is not an emotion…. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart” (Tramp For the Lord, p. 85-88).
If Corrie could forgive someone like that, can God not help you to do the same thing with the one who has offended you? The very act of forgiveness, though, involves both the offended as well as the offender. Jesus taught that both the offended and the offender are to reach toward the other in resolving the conflict.
Resource reading: Matthew 18:21-22
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