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I recently read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom. The author tells how she and her family were sent to a concentration camp during WWII for aiding the Jews. While in their final concentration camp, Corrie's sister Betsie tells her that, after the war, the former prisoners would need help and a place to heal from what they had suffered. She went on to say that the German soldiers and the guards who held them at the camps would also need help after committing such atrocities to others. Corrie didn't really understand what her sister was telling her at the time. She was too focused on the awfulness of what was happening around her.
After the war, Corrie realizes the truth of her sister's words. She sets up a house where people like her can come and heal. She also finds that her former Dutch neighbors, who fell in line with the Germans and were now ostracized, needed help as well, so she set them up in her own home.
What she discovered was that when people were able to come together and share their feelings and experiences in a safe environment, they began to feel more at ease. As time passed, they were able to focus more on things outside the experience and later, when the hurt wasn't so fresh, were even able to forgive those who hurt them. It wasn't long before those with whom she was working were also able to once more feel compassion for their Dutch brethren who had turned against them during the war.
As Christians, we need to remember that we are not to be of this world, and we should follow Christ's example showing love to all people. Jesus taught, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”(Mark 11:25-26; NKJV throughout) (See also Matthew 6:14-15)
In the Ten Boom story, at a later point after the war, Corrie is asked to come to Germany and work with the German people there. She finds that they too need healing and ends up turning an old concentration camp into a place of healing for the people. Once, after she spoke to a group in a German church, she was approached by one of the first soldiers who had been over her during her imprisonment. The man had been moved by her words of healing and came to tell her. Then he reached out to shake her hand. She found it very difficult to extend her hand to him. Her anger was still alive and well, even though she had worked with so many others to get over theirs. After some quick silent prayer she came to realize that it was not her place to judge the man; it was God's. She had to put it in His hands. Only then was she finally able to shake his hand.
The lesson here is that we can't just say we are Christians. We must act like Christians. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." (1 John 3:18-19)
Forgiveness isn't easy
It is often difficult to forgive when we've been hurt or slighted. We want to turn our backs on the offender and push them away. We may even want to hurt the offender, so that he or she feels what we have felt. We are advised in Proverbs 20:22, "Do not say, “I will recompense evil”;Wait for the Lord, and He will save you." In Proverbs 29:22 we read, "An angry man stirs up strife, And a furious man abounds in transgression."
Anger and hatred are mentally and physically toxic. In the traumatic events of her life, Betsie Ten Boom always immersed herself in the Bible. She related almost every event in her life to Scripture and knew that the only way to find peace was to be peaceful. She saw good in everyone and because of that attitude, those around her became more peaceful.She believed in the word of God. Her life embodied what is stated in Ephesians 4:31-32. "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
We, too, need to live by those words. Christ repeatedly gave us guidance on how to live and that guidance always revolved around love. Love cannot stay mad or be hateful. It's just not possible to treat someone poorly when you forgive and allow yourself to heal. Christ spoke powerfully of this principle. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44)
Although Corrie often could not understand her sister Betsie’s continual optimism, she relied heavily on her message of healing after the war. Despite Corrie’s belief in God, she had to learn to live the way of love that her sister lived almost instinctively. Like Corrie, we tend to cling to our negative feelings. We want revenge rather than reconciliation. As Jesus taught, "… love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:35-37)
Satan likes us to feel hateful. The more we hate, the more our focus diverts from God. It isn't always easy, but if we ask God to help, we can find it within us to forgive and in turn we will find healing as well.
To discover more biblical principles for living, request the free Bible study guide: Making Life Work