Forgiveness amazes me. Forgiveness is a transformational process that can change the course of one’s life for eternity, can change relationships within a family, a culture, even within a nation or between nations. Forgiveness allows the termination of the passing on of the pain, resentments, and hate inherent in being wronged. Forgiveness allows resolution of the unacceptable and a new beginning.
Living in this fallen world, we are confronted with many experiences of being wronged, hurt, and betrayed. We are designed to connect with one another, to have closeness, openness, and to love and be loved. Connecting with one another requires vulnerability but, since the fall, it is no longer safe to be vulnerable. We now are in a terrible predicament: we need both closeness and love as well as safety. We must be vulnerable to love and be loved but it is not safe to be fully vulnerable. We are wronged, hurt by others, and even betray ourselves. Love is broken, love is withdrawn, and we are hurt. We are in a constant tension between closeness and safety.
Remedies do not work when they are not rooted in reality. We need love but our fear of further hurt prompts us to try to control, deny, overlook, make excuses, or in some way overcome the wrong that has happened. All the while, resentments build. Anger is our response to perceiving that something is wrong. Anger occurs when love is broken or withdrawn, for we are designed to love and be loved. This is unacceptable to us. Tolerance doesn’t work, acceptance does not work, nor does trying to undo it. What has happened has happened. We need a remedy that can address the reality of the unacceptable.
Recently, my wife and I, along with a Czech couple who also teach at the seminary in Prague, visited Auschwitz, Poland. No place on earth represents greater broken and withdrawn love, greater evil than this former killing factory where approximately 1.5 million people were murdered. What happened here and at the other nearly 900 Nazi death camps cannot be tolerated. How can one who survived continue with life?
Eva and Miriam Mozes were 10 year old twins when they were shipped to Auschwitz and chosen by Dr. Mengele for his tortuous experiments. Both survived and Eva today lives in Indiana. In the documentary “Forgiving Dr. Mengele,” she observed
“Getting even has never healed a single person.”
She identified that she did not want those who hurt her to have power over her. She has responded to the broken love via offering forgiveness to all those who wronged her.
Corrie Ten Boom survived time in two other Nazi camps. After her release, she ministered to those who had wronged her. On one occasion, she noted a former guard as she was sharing in a church.
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him….Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness….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 his. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command, the love itself.”
She found the remedy for broken love, the remedy for the unacceptable.
Daniel Green, Ph.D., will be teaching a class on forgiveness this fall at Urbana Theological Seminary. For more information, contact Dr. Melody Green at firstname.lastname@example.org