Points to Ponder: Forgiveness: Part 2 of 2: Root Beer in the Line
Points to Ponder
Forgiveness: Part 2 of 2: Root Beer in the Line
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian whose family used their shop and home to hide Jews from the Nazis. All of her family died in the concentration camps for their so-called crime. Only Corrie survived.
She spoke all around the world on the topics of God's grace and on forgiveness. One classic story is told in her book, The Hiding Place. She had just given a message on God's forgiveness. Following the service, a smiling, exuberant man came up to her with hand extended, saying (my paraphrase), "Isn't it wonderful, Fraulein, that He has forgiven my sins, even mine?" She was shocked and at first repulsed when she realized that this man had been one of the sadistic, merciless guards at the concentration camp where she and her sister, Betsy, had been held (and where Betsy had died). Her silent prayer was "Lord, I can not forgive this man." She recalled those awful terrorizing moments: women's clothing on the floor, the humiliation, the treatment they had received, her sister's painful experience - it all flooded back into her mind as she thought back. Meanwhile, the man who had been in the center of it all was standing before her with his hand extended in friendship. She knew she could not forgive this awful man. But in Christ, if he truly was in Christ as he was claiming to be, he was a new man. So she prayed, "Lord, I can not forgive this man, but You can. Give me Your forgiveness." And with that, her own hand lifted and grasped his. She recalls that at that moment she felt an energy surge through her and out toward him. Somehow she did in fact forgive this former S.S. officer. She said that as she held his hand, a love for him poured through her. It was not from within her but from within Christ who was within her.
I cannot begin to fathom what kind of experience that must have been for Corrie ten Boom. But I have heard similar stories. In matters far less traumatic, I have also experienced Christ's loving an unlovable person through me. And when I have availed myself of that presence and power, it has made a difference in me, perhaps far more than in the person toward whom I was extending that love.
Could it be, I wonder, that this is what Jesus means in what I call "the contingency clause" in the Lord's Prayer?
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15).
Our forgiveness was bought and paid for at the cross, but what hinders us from receiving it? There is a reciprocity involved in forgiveness. Somehow the incoming line from heaven to us is blocked when the outgoing line from us to others is blocked. It's not that we from our own power and resources forgive another; it's Christ within us who through us forgives others. When we release into His hand those who have harmed us, we invite the Holy Spirit to go deeper into own souls. As we allow Him to love others through us, His power changes our own hearts. As He flows through, something of Him remains in us.
"Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." (Matthew 5:7)
So it seems that it is not the forgiven who benefits the most; it is the forgiver. It's striking that some of the most profoundly positive life-changing truths in scripture are at first the most offensive to us - or at least too difficult to accept. The whole idea sounds rather strange. That's because, as God says,
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, My ways, says the Lord . . . My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
It reminds me of root beer in the line. (Huh?) Soft-drink dispensers line up several flavors of soda side by side. Each draws its flavor through a line connected to a can of flavored syrup in the back that mixes with carbonated water. In my restaurant management days, I recall that sometimes a root beer syrup can was accidentally connected to one of the other lines. Even after the correct can was attached, the root beer flavor remained in the line for some time.
When we allow the Lord to bear the offense and the offender and avail ourselves of His power to love and to forgive, it's like root beer in the line. He "flavors" our spirit so that what grace He has dispensed through us remains a part of us. We find as time goes on that the change He's made in us brings a taste of Himself to other areas in our journey through life.
"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!" (Psalm 34:8)
What Christ does through us will take root in us if we dare to obey Him and let him have His way.
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.