But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. - Luke 6:27-28 NLT
In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:45-48 NLT
We are seriously called to love our enemies. Now I'll admit, I don't know anyone who I would label 'enemy'. There are some people I get along with, some people I don't. There are some people I like, and some people I don't. But even if your enemies look different to mine, we need to love them. One of the most important ways to love our enemies, is to forgive them. Forgive them for what they do to you. And we all have people in our lives who are unkind and hurtful.
I want to share a story from Corrie Ten Boom, a lady who was put into a German concentration camp with her sister Betsie during the Nazi occupation of Germany. She shows us that sometimes forgiving our enemies is a choice. A choice to forgive them; and asking God to supply the love.
Corrie had just given a talk about forgiveness, when a guard from a concentration camp she had been in came up to her. He had become a Christian, and had come to Corrie to ask forgiveness for what he had done to her and her sister, Betsie.
“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’
“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.
“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’
“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’
“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“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”
- excerpt from the book 'I am still Learning to Forgive', by Corrie Ten Boom
Sometimes choosing our enemies is a choice. A choice; and something we have to do with God, because how can we learn to forgive without Christ helping us? How can we do it if we try to do it by ourselves?
Is there anyone you feel you need to forgive today?
"When He tells us to love our enemies He gives, along with the command, the love itself." - Corrie ten Boom, the Hiding Place.