Corrie ten Boom was instrumental in rescuing over 800 Jewish refugees during Hitler’s violent regime. Her father owned a watch shop in the Netherlands. And they created a secret room where they would conceal the Jewish refugees from the German soldiers. Eventually Corrie and her family were apprehended. Her father died shortly after his arrest. Corrie and her sister Betsie were taken to Ravensbruck Concentration camp where Betsie would die later that year. Corrie would eventually return to Germany with a message of forgiveness. But when she actually found herself in Munich standing face to face with one of the guards from Ravensbruck, she found that forgiveness was much harder than she thought. She recounted her experience in The Hiding Place.
Of course this is where we often find ourselves. We know that we are called to forgive. And in theory, we are all for it. But when we are mistreated, misrepresented, or betrayed, we find it very hard to actually release that anger and extend forgiveness. And so days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and bitterness settles deep in the soul.
It was an agonizing moment as Corrie considered how to respond to this former guard and his outstretched hand. As she reflected on this encounter, several things became clear.
First, she couldn’t avoid the fact that she too was a sinner who needed to be forgiven. “And I stood there—I whose sins had every day to be forgiven…”
Second, she knew that forgiveness was a requirement of the gospel. “The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us.”
Third, forgiveness is a choice. “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
Fourth, forgiveness results in joy. She willed herself to forgive and extended her hand. “And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being…” That harbored bitterness is a toxin that is expelled when we extend grace. Corrie reminds us that forgiveness is not an issue of feelings but of obedience.
Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrie_ten_Boom