Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Forgiveness

Yesterday, while subbing for an English teacher, I noticed one of my favorite books on her desk: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In the book, Corrie relates some of her real life experiences including her family's activities protecting Jews from the Nazis and consequent imprisonment in a concentration camp.

The author is able to describe the horrors of her circumstances while communicating her trust in Christ that carried her through it. At the end of the book, she writes about the first time - as a free person - she encounters one of her former prison guards from the camp. She tells of her inward struggle with raw emotions that drew her toward bitterness and unforgiveness. Face to face with the guard, she felt she could hardly lift her hand to shake his. And in her heart, she called to Jesus for His help, saying "Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness."

And God gave her release from the bitterness and instead of hate He gave her a sense of love. "And so I discovered," she writes, "that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."

We try to do so much for ourselves. We try to love in our own power. To serve at our own bidding. To muster up forgiveness from within ourselves when, in reality, it comes from God. I once had a Bible study teacher who described our riches in Christ as deposits in a spiritual bank account. To access the love, joy, peace, forgiveness and other gifts of the Spirit, we must go and draw them out. Over and over again as we have need.

Have you suffered an injustice? Is there anyone you need to forgive, but just can't do it? Pray to God and, like Corrie Ten Boom, ask Him to provide what you need. One step at a time.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord." Isaiah 31:1