"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door to resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness."
~ Corrie ten Boom, Holocaust survivor
I thought those were beautiful words of truth and simply amazing considering the source they came from. The Holocaust stands out in history as one of the most tragic times in our not so distant past. Where hate, fear and ignorance and the desire for dominance and control swept over a continent; leaving in its wake a tremendous amount of death, pain and suffering. Many of us wouldn't even blame a person who had experienced the reality of a concentration camp and had witnessed their loved ones being tortured, starved and killed, to hold resentment and bitterness towards their past captors.
And yet...and yet....look at the words of Corrie ten Boom. Wow. They echo Grace. They resound with the love of our Maker and His stamp, sealed firmly on her heart, is evident in her beautiful words of reconciliation
I've recently read through Romans, and the attitude of faith that Corrie displays reminds me of how God calls us to conform our characters to be more like Christ's. Paul gives us some instructions on how to live out a life of grace and love:
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[a] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.[b] Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[c] to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The one thing that I've found in scripture that God sanctions us to hate is evil. Evil did reign in the concentration camps, suffocating the minds and consciences of the Nazis with unspeakable darkness. We are called to hate that evil, but not the individuals who've been infected by that evil, simply the evil itself. We are not to stoop down to the level of those that hurt us and lash back using their means, but to leave vengeance to the Lord. It doesn't mean that we can't resist or defend ourselves, but God doesn't want us caught up in the cycle of hate towards those who wrong us, which indeed can sow dark seeds, bearing bitter fruit. To repay evil with evil just spreads more evil. We are to cast our lights into the world, not help darkness grow. And to cast our lights, that means we must forgive, for God forgives our every sin and our daily rejections of His grace and mercy that we commit, oftentimes unknowingly through forms of pride.
This is certainly a topic that can be uncomfortable to address for many of us have been wounded greatly at the hands of others. It's so easy to harbor bitterness in our grief and pain. I think that perhaps the most important thing to remember is that God wants us to be free. He wants us to walk in freedom, truth and love. He holds the keys that unlock the door to healing. Those keys were brought to us through the blood of Jesus. All we need to do is open our hands in humility to receive those keys and they will unlock the door to the pathways of peace and the liberation from suffering. And from my understanding, that's the best way to get back at our enemies; to prosper in life and bear abundant fruit.
We can have the freedom to forgive others, knowing that whatever we might have been able to do to them to act out and try to "get back" at the pain they gave us, is nothing compared to the consequences that they will receive from our God if, when they perish, they have continued to walk in their dark paths and rejected His love and truth. We can be assured that not only is our God a God of love and compassion but He is also one of Justice, and Justice will always prevail.
Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section below. Thank you :)