With a little effort we can recall a few outstanding examples of forgiveness. From the time that Jesus and Stephen forgave their executioners, many others have followed suit with dramatic acts of forgiveness.
Corrie ten Boom, born in the Netherlands, turned her home into a hiding place for Jews when Hitler’s army attacked her homeland in 1940. Betrayed in 1944 by a fellow Dutchman working for the Germans, ten Boom was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. She was 52 years old.
In the camp, ten Boom’s father and sister could not withstand the abuse and cruelty. Both died, but ten Boom maintained her faith and even conducted Bible study groups for her fellow prisoners. Her barracks became known as the “crazy place where they hope.”
After her release from Ravensbruck, ten Boom kept a promise she made and dedicated her life to telling as many people as she could about the love and forgiveness of God. This she did by word and deed. After the war, this remarkable Christian opened a rehabilitation center for Germans who had worked under the Nazi regime.
On one occasion after speaking to a congregation in Munich, ten Boom recognized one of the SS men who had worked as a guard at Ravensbruck. Now a convert to Christ, he approached her with a smile and an outstretched hand. She had been preaching about forgiveness and now she was being called upon to practice what she preached. After praying for the grace and strength to do so, ten Boom was able to forgive.
No less dramatic is the example of forgiveness was that set by Pope Saint John Paul II, who went to the prison cell of his would be assassin to offer his forgiveness after the 1981 attempt on his life. Remember how Reginald Denny surprised a nation when he forgave those who dragged him from his truck and almost fatally beat him during the LA riots of 1992. When the late Cardinal Bernadin was falsely accused of sexual abuse, he, too, willingly forgave the young man whose lies could have ruined his good name and ended his ministry. Pope Francis made a personal phone call to the family of shooting victim Michael Brown… urging forgiveness.
We are all called to be a people of forgiveness and reconciliation. Just as a God who loves us offers us total and complete forgiveness, we are called to do the same today and everyday of our lives. Easier said than done, you say… let’s rely on God’s help to do what we are asked to do.