1st February 2015
God’s Light Shines In The Dark
Tuesday was the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. There were many films of the horrors and interviews with survivors. Yet even in the darkness there were occasionally “sparks of light” as one survivor explained. They explained the powerful effect that a simple act of kindness had on them; to the point “kindness” became their guiding principle for the rest of their lives.
This reminded me of the story of Corrie Tel Boon who discovered “the power of forgiveness as a result of an encounter with a former guard.”
Corrie lived in Amsterdam in the Netherlands with her sister Betsy during World War ‖. When the Nazis began rounding up the Jews to be sent to the concentration camps, they began to help them. They were, however, betrayed and sent themselves to the infamous Ravensbruk Concentration Camp. Only Corrie survived their ordeal and she devoted her life like other survivors to going around different groups sharing her experiences. Corrie’s talks, however, were different in that their focus was very much on forgiveness and reconciliation.
One Sunday she was in Munich and during the Church Service she gave a touching and emotional talk on forgiveness. During it, however, she noticed the face of someone in the congregation who was just smiling. Afterwards he came up to her and thanked her for her inspiring words, that “Jesus had washed his sins away”. As he held out his hand to shake hers, she very much to horror, recognised him as one of the guards from Ravensbruk. Not only that, he was one of the guards in the shower block who regularly humiliated her sister by insisting on making intimate body searches. At first she simply froze. In her mind came the awful images of the sufferings he had inflicted on Betsy. How despite preaching forgiveness could she forgive such an evil man?
For a long moment she paused and prayed silently, “Lord Jesus, forgive me and help me to forgive him.” But she still could not smile or raise her hand – it seemed stuck to her side. “Give me your forgiveness,” she prayed, “I cannot forgive him on my own.” She felt her arm loosen and as she shook his hand, she felt an amazing warm current passing from her to him and a great sense of love filled her heart. So she concluded, I discussed that when God tells us to love our enemies he gives, along with the command the love itself. Later she too reflected on how in forgiving the guard, not only had she freed him, but also herself, of the anger and bitterness she had been carrying.