The Impossible Possible

by Eric Kreye

When Korea was still under Communist rule, a Christian man was arrested and sentenced to die before a firing squad for unknowingly committing an infraction of a rule. But when the officer in charge heard that this prisoner was the head of an orphanage, he changed the order. Instead, he forced the Christian to watch as his 19-year-old son was shot to death in his place.

Some time later this same officer was captured by United Nations forces. He was tried, and condemned to die for his war crimes against humanity. Just before the execution, the Christian whose son was killed appealed in behalf of the officer, asking that he be released to his custody. His request was granted. Later the Communist officer was converted to Christ and became a pastor.

How could a man have such a forgiving spirit toward the one who had killed his child?

God sent this message to humanity through the apostle Paul:

"Be kind to one another,
forgiving one another, just as God
in Christ also forgave you."
--Ephesians 4:32

One can begin to learn what real forgiveness is by studying the life of Jesus. He endured more than we could ever imagine. The agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, then the mock trial. Not only was He terribly insulted, but He was spit upon, and cruelly beaten. A crown of sharp thorns was pressed into His tender brow, and blood oozed down His face and beard.

Then He was beaten until His back was raw and dripping blood. He was forced to drag His own cross through the streets until He collapsed on the ground. On the hill of Golgotha He was made to stretch out on the cross while sharp spikes were driven through His tender flesh. Muscles and bones split apart in excruciating pain. There Jesus hung on the cross, between heaven and earth, for all people to gaze upon and ridicule.

Yet with all this physical and emotional pain, not one word of revenge or retaliation came from His lips. Instead, He prayed with deep emotion, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they are doing." (See Luke 23:34.)

It is as though Jesus were saying, "Don't hold it against them, Father, they are ignorant of the fact that I'm dying for them. You love them, and I love them too. So please forgive them, Father."

Is God asking us to love like that? Can we forgive like He does?

Hatred and revenge has been a way of life for some people in Northern Ireland.

Harold Cobb, a policeman who had great tolerance for his enemies, was cut down by a sniper's bullet. His wife, Florence, was heartbroken.

When she received the awful news, she put her arms tightly around her children and wept bitterly. After a while she said--and the words that came out of her mouth surprised herself, "God's love is stronger than the hatred of any man."

The murderer was eventually caught and he received a life sentence.

The prison was only a few blocks from Florence's home. Every morning when she opened the curtains she saw its ugly outline, and every evening when she closed them Florence could feel the anger boiling inside her heart.

One day while standing there by the window, she felt a strong impression to write to the murderer and tell him of Christ's love for him. Over the next three years she tried several times to complete the letter, but each attempt ended in the trash.

One day she succeeded. She wrote these most important words, "I forgive you."

In following the example of Jesus, Florence experienced total freedom from anger and resentment.

A soldier in the United States army became a Christian and it changed his life. He began the habit of kneeling for prayer every night before going to bed. He was ridiculed and tormented by some of the other soldiers.

One night as he knelt by his bunk, two muddy boots came flying at him, and one was a direct hit! He finished his prayer, but after the others were sleeping, this Christian soldier climbed from his bed and cleaned and polished those ugly boots that were thrown at him. He returned the boots to the soldier's bedside.

What an eloquent testimony of forgiveness!

Jesus once admonished his hearers:

"Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
and pray for those
who spitefully use you."
--Luke 6:27, 28

In her book The Hiding Place Corrie ten Boom tells of her experiences in a concentration camp in Germany, including the abuse by Nazi guards.

When the war was over, she traveled to different places to share the testimony of her deliverance from that horrible death camp.

One evening in Munich, Germany, a man came up to her after one of her talks. She stiffened with shock as she recognized this man as one of her Nazi guards. Of course, he didn't remember her. He said to Corrie, "I've been so blessed by your message tonight. Just to think that Jesus has forgiven my horrible past." He then wanted to shake her hand.

But vengeful thoughts boiled in Corrie's heart. She knew how sinful they were, and she silently prayed, "Forgive me, Father, and please help me to forgive this enemy."

She tried to raise her hand, but it remained at her side. Again she prayed, "Jesus, I cannot forgive, but please give me Your Spirit."

Corrie recalls, "As I took his hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a new kind of love that almost overwhelmed me!"

God gave Corrie the help she needed to be able to forgive just as He forgives.

"...forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors."
--Matthew 6:12

Carolyn and Bob were married just a few years when Bob was called to the service in a foreign country. At first he wrote faithfully to Carolyn, but gradually this changed and finally nothing came to her home.

One day a letter arrived with devastating news. Bob asked for a divorce. Apparently he had met a young woman where he was stationed, and they were making plans to be married.

Carolyn took it so hard she seriously contemplated ending her life.

But as a Christian she had learned the importance of trusting God. Gradually her faith pulled her out of her deep depression.

In spite of the hurt she was able to maintain a degree of friendship with her former husband and his new wife. Occasionally she heard from them, and in one letter she learned of the birth of their first child. Later a second child was born.

Some time later an urgent letter arrived. Carolyn learned that Bob had cancer and was not expected to live very long.

Carolyn thought, "What will happen to the children? Can the young mother earn a living and still care for the girls?" She knew what it meant to lose a husband, and the young wife would feel the loss just as keenly.

When she got word that Bob was gone, Carolyn could not rejoice over the pain of the other woman. Instead, she decided to invite the young widow and her children to America and live with her.

"...just as God has forgiven you."

Only God can give healing and a spirit of forgiveness like that.

Has someone hurt you? Do you feel justified in being bitter? Are you waiting for that person to come to you and ask forgiveness?

A nurse in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital hurried to the bedside of her new patient. The man had suffered a serious heart attack.

As she came to his bedside, he whispered, "Nurse, will you call my daughter? She is the only one I have left in my family."

"Of course, I will call her," replied the nurse as she proceeded with her duties.

The patient's face was tense. He was breathing with difficulty. "Nurse, will you call her now?"

"Yes, immediately."

As she turned to leave, he said, "Please let me have a pencil and some paper."

The nurse pulled a scrap of paper from her pocket and handed it to him along with a pencil. She then left to make the important call.

She dialed. "Hello, I'm a nurse and I'm calling from the hospital. Your father was admitted today with a heart attack and--"

"Oh, no, he's not dying, is he?" the young woman cried.

"His condition is not good at the moment," the nurse replied.

The lady on the other end sobbed and said, "He must not die!"

The nurse assured her that he was getting the very best of care.

"But you don't understand. Dad and I had a terrible fight a year ago, and we haven't spoken since. The last thing I said to him was, 'I hate you!' All these months I've wanted to ask forgiveness." Her voice broke. Then the nurse heard her say, "I'll be there in half an hour or less."

When the daughter arrived, her father had his eyes closed with a look of peace on his face. But there was no response to her greeting. The nurse discovered that her father had died while she was out making the phone call. The young woman pressed her face against her dad's and sobbed.

Just then the nurse noticed the scrap of paper she had given to him earlier. She picked it up and gave it to the grieving daughter.

She read the note over and over. It said, "My dear Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know you love me. I love you, too. Dad."

In the story of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11-24), the father forgave his wayward son long before he arrived back home. And instead of waiting for a confession, the father said, "Let's celebrate!"

Is our heavenly Father like that? Does He forgive before we ask?

Absolutely! In fact, the moment we turn toward Him, He is already standing there with arms outstretched. He is ready to encircle us in the spirit of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

This wonderful Father-God of ours with great joy proclaims,

"Come home with Me--let's celebrate!"

Top of Page Table of Contents Return to Home Page