Imagine being humiliated by being forced to do things you never would’ve dreamed of doing… Imagine being treated like you were worthless day after day… Imagine being starved for speaking, beaten for stumbling… How do you feel about those who have hurt you and possibly even enjoyed hurting you? What would you do when you saw that person again?
It was in a church in Munich that she saw him again — a balding, heavyset man, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. It was 1947 and Corrie Ten Boom, having gone through the hell of the Nazi concentration camps had come back to Germany with the message that God forgives. She had just finished telling the people of God’s incredible grace and ability to forgive all sins, when she saw him making his way to the front. One moment she saw his overcoat and hat, the next she saw a blue uniform and cap with skull and crossbones. In her mind she was transported back to Ravensbruck, the Nazi death camp. The man making his way forward had been one of the most cruel while she was there.
Now the hand which had slapped her was extended to her, “A fine message Fraulein,” he said, “How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea.” Corrie couldn’t bring herself to shake his hand. He obviously didn’t remember her, but she remembered him, remembered what he had done. “You mentioned Ravensbruck,” the man was saying, “I was a guard there, but since then I have become a Christian. I know God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips too. Fraulein will you forgive me?”
What would you do? The seconds seemed like hours as Corrie stood there wrestling with the most difficult thing she had ever been asked to do. The coldness of her heart was holding her back, till in her heart she cried out, “Jesus help me. I’ll do it if you help me…and she reached up and took his hand.”
This weekend at Calvary we were talking about the things that keep us from hearing God — parable of the soils, Mark 4 –Jesus tells a parable of great harvest. The seed is God’s Word. The soil is our hearts. If we aren’t hearing God, it’s not a seed problem. It’s a soil problem and one of the ways we work the soil is to practice forgiveness. If we can’t forgive we won’t hear God’s voice. Who has hurt you? Have you heard God calling you to to take their hand and forgive?
Corrie Ten Boom says, “As I thrust my hand into the hand of the once cruel guard, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced dwn my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you with all my heart,’ I cried. Never b4 had I known God’s love so intensely as I did at that moment.”
That’s the way it is with grace — give it and it flows back magnified, healing grace. Work the soil. Keep your heart soft. Forgive.