When we are hurt, disparaged, or backstabbed the wounds are raw and real. It is here that we have an opportunity to learn of Christ and make the conscious decision to obey. In this episode, Leslie shares how she has overcome the dangerous pitfall of unforgiveness fueled by the inspiring testimony of a great leading lady of the faith – Corrie ten Boom. Grasp the forgiveness you have received through Christ, learn how to practice forgiveness in the day to day offenses of life, and recognize that forgiveness is first choice rather than feeling. And be amazed at the depth of love and forgiveness that Christ exemplified through Corrie’s life as she surrendered her feelings in exchange for His supernatural grace!
Leslie Ludy: Hey, everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. Today I’m excited to share with you another woman from history who has greatly impacted my life. I’ve quoted her so many times in the other podcasts – it’s Corrie ten Boom. Hopefully you’ve read her incredible story. She has a book called The Hiding Place about how she and her family harbored Jews during the Holocaust and then were put into prison. Many of them died and went through horrific things because they stood against the Nazis in that time. Her testimony is truly incredible!
But there are a lot of things about her life even beyond her time in prison that have really impacted me being in ministry. Probably one of the most important things that I have learned from her life and her story is what true forgiveness looks like.
Choosing to Forgive
Leslie Ludy: One of the most impacting stories that I read (and it’s in her book Tramp for the Lord) is when she met one of the guards that had been one of the cruelest guards in the concentration camp where she and her sister stayed and where her sister actually died. She was face to face with one of the men who was indirectly responsible for her sister’s death. He was a cruel guard, and after the war he came to hear her speak. She shared her story, and about God’s forgiveness, and he was so eager to receive God’s forgiveness. He had come to grips with the fact that his life had not been right and the things that he had done in that concentration camp were not right. He came up to her and didn’t recognize her as having been one of the prisoners where he was a guard. He came up to her and said, “It is so wonderful to know that Jesus can forgive even me for the things that I have done.” She stood frozen to the spot thinking, I don’t know that I can actually forgive this man because all I can remember are all the cruel things that he did to myself, my sister, and these other prisoners that we were with. And yet, she felt in her heart that God was saying, “If you take this step of obedience to forgive, I will supply the feeling.” Even without feeling the warm, fluffy feelings of forgiveness, she decided to take that step of obedience, reach out, and shake the man’s hand in friendship. This is what she wrote,
“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 anymore 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.”
That is so powerful! We so often think that we need to wait for the feelings to come before we obey a command of God – whether it’s forgiveness, love, courage, or whatever else it is. But when we take that step of obedience and we submit our feelings and our emotions to the Spirit of God, He will shape our feelings to align with the obedience that He’s called us to walk in.
Forgiveness is a Choice, not a Feeling
Leslie Ludy: Forgiveness is something that I’ve thought a lot about being in ministry. Having walked through a lot of heartaches as a result of being in ministry I’ve had to learn (and Corrie’s example has been a huge part of what’s helped me learn this) is that forgiveness is not primarily a matter of feeling but a choice. It’s a decision to obey. When we simply say, “Lord, I choose to let this go, to give this offense to You instead of carrying it.” God supplies the willingness, the love, and the compassion that we need to practically live it out. When it comes to a decision of whether or not to forgive, we have to remember that we ourselves have been forgiven and delivered from an eternity in hell. We didn’t deserve Christ’s unconditional love, but He gave it anyway. And He asks us to do the same in return to forgive those even who are undeserving.
I often think of Corrie’s amazing story of forgiveness when I’m struggling to let offenses go. I remember a time when Eric and I discovered that we had been deliberately deceived by someone that we had trusted, and there were moments in that process when I wondered if I would ever truly be able to move past the anger and the grief that I felt. But whenever I began to think that it was truly impossible to forgive the person who wronged me, I remembered the women throughout Christian history, like Corrie ten Boom, who forgave in circumstances where it seemed impossible and only the supernatural grace of God could have enabled them to do that.
It’s really not a matter of whether the other person deserves forgiveness or not. I think that trips us up so often. We think, Well, how could I forgive when they don’t really deserve it? Maybe they haven’t even asked for forgiveness. But true forgiveness means leaning upon the grace of God to forgive others just as He has forgiven us – whether they deserve it or not. After all, if Christ can forgive us and offer us the grace that we don’t deserve, how can we refuse to forgive those who wrong us?
This principle is illustrated in Matthew 18 when Jesus tells the parable of a servant who is about to be thrown into prison because he owed a tremendous debt to his master. Yet he begged mercy from his creditor and the man forgave him the debt. Then that same man went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money. Rather than offering the same forgiveness that he had received, he took the fellow servant by the throat, demanded the money, and, even when the man pleaded for mercy, he refused to give it. Jesus is saying through this parable that when we’ve refused to forgive those who wrong us, we are disregarding the great debt that He has forgiven us. We are trampling on the grace that He has offered us. Corrie ten Boom’s example of forgiveness reminds me of what is possible. No matter what hurts I’ve experienced, I can forgive – not through human willpower but through the enabling grace of the One who forgave my debt even when I did not deserve it.
Forgiving Immediately and Loving Readily
Leslie Ludy: Her story of reaching out her hand to her enemy to forgive as an act of obedience and not emotion is one of the most powerful examples of biblical forgiveness that I’ve ever seen or heard. We have to remember that becoming a forgiving woman doesn’t just apply to the major offenses that have happened in our lives, but in the way we treat people on a daily basis. Long before Corrie came face to face with the former prison guard, she practiced loving and forgiving others on a daily basis, even in the worst conditions imaginable.
If you read her book The Hiding Place, you’ll see one example after the next of the small, everyday decisions to put offenses aside and choose the love of Christ instead. Every single day, most of us encounter insensitive people, people who are being rude, people who are being selfish. We come across people who are sinful and [are] hard to be around. We might rub shoulders with arrogant people, self-focused people, or take the brunt of other people’s stress. There are two ways to respond: we can respond with forgiveness or with selfishness. And if we’re truly Christlike and desiring to be Christlike, it needs to be our goal not to take offense easily, not to become critical and judgmental towards those who offend us, and not look down our nose at sinful or undesirable people.
It should be our aim to be a reflection of 1 Corinthians 13. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, [and] endures all things.”
These are not meant to be just flowery good-sounding words on a page. This is a beautiful description of Christlike love in action, a vivid picture of the way we are called to live – no matter what our circumstances, just as Corrie ten Boom’s life beautifully illustrates. Remember that if God can give Corrie ten Boom the grace to forgive and love in a filthy prison camp and the power to extend grace to one of the men responsible for her sister’s death, He certainly can give us everything we need to forgive the people who have wronged us.
Forgiving Christians Who Have Hurt Us
Leslie Ludy: Corrie also tells another story that happened to her later in her ministry when she had been traveling and speaking as an evangelist for many, many years and she was deeply hurt by a fellow Christian. She said, “You would think that because I had forgiven people who literally caused the death of my family members, it would be easy for me to forgive a Christian brother and sister who had wronged me and hurt me so deeply, but it wasn’t.”
She said she actually had a harder time forgiving those brothers and sisters in Christ than she did the prison guards in the concentration camp. For a long time, she had a piece of paper that represented the wrong that she had been done by this Christian brother or sister. She hadn’t gotten rid of it. She had mentally and verbally said that she had forgiven them, but she was hanging onto the evidence that she had wronged her and hurt her. One day, a Christian friend challenged her that if she had truly forgiven them the way God had forgiven her, she would burn all evidence of what they had done; she would cast that sin as far away as the east is from the west and not hang on to even a little shred of it. She was so convicted by what he said that she immediately took that piece of paper and burned it in the fireplace.
Wow! What a powerful testimony of real forgiveness. I am going to say that probably not one person listening to this podcast right now doesn’t relate to that need or that struggle of forgiveness because we’ve all been hurt and treated wrongly by people in our lives.
If you’ve been deeply hurt by someone, if you have offenses in your life that you can’t seem to let go of, I would encourage you to glean from Corrie’s example and not worry about whether you have the strength to forgive or not, but to lean upon the only One who does have the strength to forgive and let Him forgive through you just as Corrie did. You will become a channel of His supernatural love, forgiveness, and grace.
Leslie Ludy: One of my favorite quotes is from Elisabeth Elliot and it applies so perfectly to this topic, “Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.” That is so true when we’re dealing with bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness. We feel that when those feelings are strong we’re just a victim to them, we’re helpless to them, they just have to overtake us. But God says that we are to forgive those that wrong us just as He has forgiven us. That is obedience. Obedience to God is always possible. By His grace, we need to put our feelings aside and take that step of obedience – even if the feelings aren’t there yet – and allow Him to shape our feelings according to His truth.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. If you would like to know more about Corrie ten Boom’s life, she has two amazing books The Hiding Place and Tramp for the Lord which you can order online. If you’d like to know more about true forgiveness, look at the many resources that we have at SetApartGirl.com. We have a bimonthly magazine that is a beautiful, Christ-centered resource with articles on forgiveness and loving others. There are so many resources on Ellerslie.com. You can download sermons on forgiveness and podcasts. One of my favorite sermons from Eric is called “Power to Forgive.” That’s available for free here. Begin to really look at what God says about forgiveness and don’t allow unforgiveness to hinder your spiritual life. He will give you the grace to obey Him, and you will discover the most incredible freedom when you choose to forgive. I pray you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!