Thursday, July 23, 2009


After this manner therefore pray ye:
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
T h e G o s p e l o f M a t t h e w 6:9-13;14,15

Simon Wiesenthal lost 89 relatives in Nazi Concentration Camps. Until his death in 2005, this Austrian born, Jewish architectural engineer devoted his life to hunting down Nazi criminals and bringing them to justice.

To answer those who asked when he would give up his efforts, he wrote a book he entitled, THE SUNFLOWER. In the introduction, Wiesenthal tells of a remarkable experience he himself had had while imprisoned in one of Hitler’s concentration camps.

One day he was yanked out of a work detail and taken by a nurse up a back stairway into a dark hospital room. Left alone with a mortally wounded patient lying on a hospital bed, Wiesenthal introduced himself to Karl, a badly wounded German soldier.

With a trembling voice, the German confessed to Wiesenthal that he had been brought up in a Nazi family, that he had fought valiantly on the Russian front, and that his S.S. unit had brutalized Jewish families.

He told Wiesenthal that on one horrible day, he and his fellow soldiers had herded all the Jews in a Russian town into a wooden building, and then set the building on fire. Karl confessed to have taken an active part in this atrocity.

Several times, Wiesenthal tried to leave the room, but each time the shrouded soldier would reach out and beg him to stay. After two hours, Karl told his Jewish visitor why he had asked for him.

“I am left here with my guilt. I do not know who you are, I only know that you are a Jew, and that is enough. I know that what I am asking is almost too much for you, but without your answer I cannot die in peace.” Karl asked Wiesenthal to forgive him for all the Jews he had killed. He, a wounded soldier who was about to die, asked a Jewish prisoner who might soon die, to forgive him.

Wiesenthal sat and stared silently at Karl. At last, without saying a word, he stood up, and left the room. He left the soldier unforgiven and in torment.

Years later Wiesenthal asked 32 rabbis, Christian theologians, and secular philosophers to comment on his response. Had he done the best he could? Out of the 32 people, only 6 said he had done the wrong thing. What do you think?


Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

He said, “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. (Matthew 5:23-25)

Observe, Jesus said that if you remember that your brother has something against you, not that you have something against him, you should go the extra mile to be reconciled with him.

Must we forgive?

Jesus said, “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) Reading Mark 11:25,26, Luke 6:27-29, and Luke 6:36,37, one cannot escape this conclusion, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE AN UNFORGIVING FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST.

Just as God has offered forgiveness to all who repent, so we too offer our forgiveness to all who repent. But there is a great difference between God and us! He knows the heart and we cannot.
At times we will err on the side of forgiveness. Our forgiveness will at times be offered where God’s forgiveness cannot be offered. But that is as it must and ought to be. We are finite, He is infinite.


Kim Hubbard once said, “Nobody ever forgets where he buried the hatchet.” And so it is. But God’s Word urges the followers of Christ to lavishly offer forgiveness.

God does not mean that we overlook, excuse, or minimize the wrongs. It does mean that we should take the blame ourselves for the wrongs of others.

But it does mean that whenever, and wherever repentance is offered, forgiveness can and must be freely given. One man put it this way,

“Forgiveness is a decision of our will, to bring pain to an end. In order to forgive I willingly let go of my resentment, my bitterness, my hurt, and my pride. Forgiveness,” he continues, “is hard, but hate is harder!”

To Peter’s question, “How often shall I forgive?” Jesus replied, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22)

In his book “Forgive and Forget”, Lewis Smedes writes, “The miracle of forgiving is the creation of a new beginning. It does not always take away the hurt. It does not deny the past injury. It merely refuses to let them stand in the way of a new start.


The ancient philosopher Epictetus once said, “Forgiveness is better than revenge, for forgiveness is the sign of a gentle nature, but revenge is the sign of a savage nature.”

We have often heard it said, “To err is human, to forgive is Divine!” And it is!

It is the carnal, self-willed, proud, natural man who is unwilling to forgive. Unforgiveness is the natural reflex of the carnally minded.

Is there grace that is sufficient to so transform our nature, that forgiveness is the reflex of our will? Yes! To the Glory of God there is! To all who sincerely apply to the Throne of God’s limitless grace, there is “Grace that will pardon, and cleanse within!”

Wiesenthal’s heartrending account of his Second World War experience leaves us disheartened. But the story of Corrie Ten Boom warms our hearts.

Corrie spent time in Nazi concentration camps for hiding Jews in her home in Holland during the Holocaust. Fifty two years old and unmarried she and her elderly father and older sister Betsie were sent to concentration camps when the Nazis discovered they had been hiding the Jewish refugees.

Corrie lost her freedom, her dignity, and her beloved sister and father in the span of a few months in those concentration camps. In God’s providence, and due to a clerical error Corrie was released just one week before the other women in Ravensbruck her age were executed.

After the war Corrie was invited to speak all over the world. She tirelessly traveled the globe, thankful for every opportunity she was given to tell people about Christ. She always marveled at God’s infinite mercy toward sinners like us.

She also knew that everyone who had received God’s mercy had no choice but to show mercy to others; and she knew from her own experience that wasn’t always easy. In her book The Hiding Place she tells the following story:

“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
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.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

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 love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

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.”

The Prayer of St. Francis is the heart cry of all God’s children:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

See also: Matthew 18:23-35