Pastor’s Ponderings: Empowered to Forgive (8/6/22)

Posted by on Aug 6, 2022 in Pastors Ponderings | 0 comments

Pastor Jim submitted the following thoughts about forgiveness on August 6, 2022….

 

Greetings:

Holocaust survivor and Christian author Corrie ten Boon once said,

“God does not have problems, only plans.”

PLEASE READ: Ephesians 4:30-32 

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (NRSV)

The Living Bible translates it this way, 

“Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who marks you to be present on that day when salvation from sin will be complete. Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ” (TLB)
 

In “The Sermon on the Mount,” preached by Jesus, we have some of the most profound words spoken by Jesus while on earth. At the same time, those words are challenging and difficult to put into everyday practice.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:39b,

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.” 

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

I suspect that many on either side of this computer screen would acknowledge that extending forgiveness as Jesus instructs is a very hard thing to do. Yet at the same time, those who know Christ as Savior and Lord are called to be intentional at extending forgiveness to all.  To be sure, it is a tall order our Lord gives us. Yet, He has promised to give us the power and ability to do this.  What would the world look like if this simple word of Jesus were practiced?

Below is a true story which explains the difficulty of this but the good which can come from extending the spiritual discipline of forgiveness. In many ways it provides us with a real life example of what it means to “turn the other check” even in the midst of confusion and pain.  I pray we all will be blessed.

 
Corrie ten Boon (4/15/1882 – 4/15/1983) was a woman who had a profound Christian faith who along with her family, gave assistance to Jewish people during World War II. She and many in her family were imprisoned by the Germans when it was discovered that they were helping the Jewish people. Following her imprisonment in a Nazi prison she tells this story:

“It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the Nazi processing center at Ravensbruck. Suddenly it all came back to me – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, pain-blanched face of my sister Betsie. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine.

I stood there for what seemed an eternity with the coldness clutching my heart.

Forgiveness is not an emotion. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I tried to smile. I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so I breathed a silent prayer. ‘Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness’. ‘… I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened – into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that brought tears to my eyes. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on God’s. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

 
Friends, the same Holy Spirit who empowered Corrie ten Boom to offer forgiveness to that German guard, is available to empower us to extend forgiveness to all.  Are we willing to be as receptive to the Holy Spirit as Jesus taught and Corrie ten Boom experienced?
 
Shalom,

Pastor Jim

 

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