This study follows the “Getting Past Guilt” study, which focuses on receiving the forgiveness that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is the UNDESERVED cancelling and release of a debt, pardoning the offender, and declaring the offender ‘not guilty’. It means to release, to liberate, and to set free.
We all should realize how much we NEED forgiveness, because we have a constant need for forgiveness – from God, and from others. So we should be very willing to offer forgiveness to others when they mess up, right? But it doesn’t seem to work that way, does it?
Max Lucado wrote a wonderful article titled Resentment Is A Prison. He states “Jesus doesn’t question the reality of our wounds. He understands exactly what it feels like to be an innocent victim of the hatred and evil of others. He experienced more of that than we ever will. What He wants us to understand is that our resentment, our anger, our hatred, our bitterness – none of those things will heal us. In fact, they are what stands in the way of our healing. He asks us to trust Him with our hurts, our wounds, and our pain. And He promises that He will make it right.”
We all tend to minimize our own sin, and magnify the wrongs of others. We’ve been on the receiving end of this, and we’ve been on the giving end of it. We’ve all been hurt, and we all carry pain. And unfortunately, we often deal with our own hurt by hurting others. We may call it justice, but what we usually really want is retaliation and revenge.
Forgiveness takes incredible courage and strength. There are few things harder to do than forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. In fact, it is SO unnatural and so difficult that we are unable to do it on our own… which is why there are few things that show God’s grace as beautifully and powerfully as forgiveness.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Christian woman living with her family in the Netherlands during World War 2. During this war, Jewish people were hunted down and rounded up in concentration camps. More than six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and between 11 and 17 million people died in that war. Corrie’s family helped Jews escape the Nazis by hiding them in their home until they could flee the country. The Ten Boom family willingly risked their own lives to help others, and they saved more than 800 Jewish people from execution.
They were eventually caught, and Corrie and her sister Betsy were arrested by the Nazis and put in Ravensbruck concentration camp. The women were treated horribly, in conditions worse than anything you could possibly imagine. Most of the guards were ruthless, harsh and endlessly cruel. Betsy died there at the hands of a guard, but Corrie was eventually released. She wrote a book called The Hiding Place, and began speaking in churches about how God sustained her though her ordeal. She wrote about the people she knew that lived through the concentration camp horrors saying “Those who were able to forgive were best able to rebuild their lives.”
One of Corrie’s favorite sayings was “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” Years after the war, Corrie was speaking at a church in Germany. Afterwards, a German man came up to her and began speaking to her. In this video clip, Corrie tells her story about how this former concentration camp guard asked for her forgiveness. She couldn’t forgive the guard on her own. She said “all I can do is hate him”. But the Lord brought Romans 5:5 to her mind – “For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”
Corrie also says “You never so touch the ocean of God’s love as much as when you forgive your enemies.” Her forgiveness of the guard from the concentration camp is a beautiful demonstration of God’s POWER in her life.
When those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior witness this kind of forgiveness, it shows us the power of Christ in another person’s life. It encouraged us to live according to God’s ways, and in His Spirit. It can convict us of any unforgiveness we may be holding on to. For those who don’t know Jesus Christ, seeing this kind of forgiveness is usually an unexpected shock.
Nothing is more foreign to human nature than forgiving others.
Few things can damage our physical and emotional health more than holding on to unforgiveness. And few things can damage our spiritual walk with God more than unforgiveness.
Next, we will look at some of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness.
Note: Click on the link for the “speaker’s notes” version of the Forgiveness To Us & Through Us study. Feel free to use, copy, and distribute as God leads.