1535) Life is Too Short

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Garrison Keillor (1942- )

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By Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days, 1985, from pages 242-248.

     Uncle Virgil Bunsen’s death caught almost everyone by surprise, though they hadn’t even known he was alive.  He moved to Nevada in 1925 and didn’t keep in touch, so not many people at his funeral knew him well enough to feel as bad as they knew they ought to.  They went to be sociable.

     Clarence had got the news on Monday from his cousin Denise, Virgil’s daughter, who asked Clarence to handle the arrangements because she couldn’t be there.  “I think Dad would’ve wanted to be buried up there.  He hated Nevada.  Anyway, Burt and I have to go to Hawaii for two weeks.  It’s something we’ve been planning for a long time and, anyway, I want to remember Dad the way he was.  I can’t see what good it would do me to be there.  I don’t know anybody and funerals depress me.  I think we have to look ahead.  Not look back.  You know.”

     Who was Burt?  Her husband, Clarence guessed, but which one?  The last he heard she was married to a Ray.  And where was Aunt Ginny?  “Oh, she died about six years ago,” Denise said.  “I thought Dad wrote to you.”

     The upshot was that he had to get up at six a.m. and go to the Minneapolis.-St. Paul airport, find a certain freight terminal, sign a receipt for Uncle Virgil, and talk a young man in a suit into letting him put the box in the panel truck instead of hiring a hearse.  The man told him that he was only an assistant manager and didn’t make the rules.  He said, “Would you want people hauling you in an old truck after you pass on?”  Clarence said, “It depends who the people are.”  Back home, he dropped off the box at Lundberg’s Funeral Home and went to persuade Pastor Ingqvist to give Uncle Virgil the benefit of the doubt and provide a Christian burial, then he called Elmer about the honor guard, and about four o’clock he headed up to the cemetery with Bud to help dig.

     “It looks like rain for tomorrow,” Bud said.  “That’s why I didn’t want to wait.  You ever dig a grave in the rain?” Clarence worked the pick and Bud shoveled.  The men took turns in the hole.  The plot was between Clarence’s Uncle Frank, the oldest boy who never married, and an Alphonse Herberger whom he had never heard of: 1881-1924.  It was going to be a tight fit, they could see as they got down to four feet, and Bud said he hoped Virgil was the sort who got along.  Clarence was sweating.  He shuddered each time he raised the pick and brought it down.  Pieces of what looked to be Frank’s coffin kept turning up beneath his feet and he was afraid of bringing up a bone.  “Don’t be afraid to dig down around Frank,” Bud said.  “It’s only dust, you know.”

     Clarence’s one clear memory of Virgil was from a family trip out West, when Clarence was nine or ten.  He remembered eating hamburgers in buns (his family always had them on bread) and leaving the cafe and his father put him up on his lap and let him drive the car.  In Nevada, it was his mother’s idea to at Virgil’s house, a little white house, and Virgil came out to see them.  They stood around, and he didn’t invite them in.  Aunt Ginny wasn’t feeling well.  His mother tried to be friendly, but his dad and Virgil did not say more than two words to each other.  They all went for a walk.  They walked along some railroad tracks and past a water tank, and next thing, Virgil was forty, fifty feet out in front of them; walking like he forgot they were there.  That night, they stayed in tourist cabins.  “Uncle Virgil doesn’t have room for all of us,” his mother explained.  His father snorted.  He said, “Virgil never did have room.”  Years later, from his father, Clarence heard a passing reference to bad blood between Virgil and Clarence’s grandfather, which had to do with being cheated on some cattle, and led to Virgil moving away and which apparently never got patched up.

     Clarence put himself out for the funeral, as several people remarked to him afterward.  “This was real good of you, Clarence.  You did the right thing.”  He made four big sprays of evergreen and dug up enough about Uncle Virgil to make a decent obituary, and when Pastor Ingqvist said he couldn’t stay for the graveside service, Clarence handled that himself.  He read the Twenty-third Psalm, and then, even though it gave him a bad case of the shakes, he faced them, all sixteen of them, and said, “Uncle Virgil left here when I was pretty little and I only saw him once after that, so I don’t have much to say about him.  I do know that it was because of an argument that he left.  I wish I knew more.  I’m glad to have him back and I hope that he is finally at rest.  I hope that all of us will take a lesson from it– to settle our arguments as quick as we can.  I say this especially to the younger ones.  Life is short.  The Bible says, don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.  Settle these things.  It isn’t true that time heals all wounds.  Sometimes they get worse if you don’t do something about them.  I didn’t mean to talk this much, but I know I’ve done things to make people mad and I ask you to forgive me for them, and I forgive you for anything you ever did to me”  He stopped, not certain how he should end it.  Finally, he just reached for the ropes.  They lowered Virgil into his grave and shoveled in the dirt and made a nice mound over him.  They shook hands and got in their cars and went home to supper.

     Clarence sat in his green easy chair and Arlene fixed him a cup of Sanka.  She kissed him on the top of his head.  “You did good, honey,” she said.

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Ephesians 4:26  —  Be angry, but sin not:  let not the sun go down upon your wrath.

Genesis 3:19b  —  Dust you are and to dust you will return.

Job 7:21  —  Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?  For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more.

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Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

–Jesus

1476) Speechless

Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable

Coffins are carried to the funeral of Egyptian Christians killed in Palm Sunday bombings.

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By Jayson Casper, April 20, 2017, at:  http://www.christianitytoday.com

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     Twelve seconds of silence is an awkward eternity on television.  Amr Adeeb, perhaps the most prominent talk show host in Egypt, leaned forward as he searched for a response.

     “The Coptic Christians of Egypt … are made of … steel!” he finally uttered.

     Moments earlier, Adeeb was watching a colleague in a simple home in Alexandria speak with the widow of Naseem Faheem, the guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the seaside Mediterranean city.

     On Palm Sunday, the guard had redirected a suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated.  Likely the first to die in the blast, Faheem saved the lives of dozens inside the church.  (Even so, forty-five worshipers were killed in two suicide attacks.)

     “I’m not angry at the one who did this,” said his wife, children by her side.  “I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you.  Believe me, we forgive you.  You put my husband in a place I couldn’t have dreamed of.’”

     Stunned, Adeeb stammered about Copts bearing atrocities over hundreds of years, but couldn’t escape the central scandal.

     “How great is this forgiveness you have!” his voice cracked.  “If it were my father, I could never say this.  But this is their faith and religious conviction.”  Millions marveled with him across the airwaves of Egypt.

     So also did millions of Copts, recently rediscovering their ancient heritage, according to Ramez Atallah, president of the Bible Society of Egypt, which subtitled and recirculated the satellite TV clip ( https://vimeo.com/212755977  ).  “In the history and culture of the Copts, there is much taught about martyrdom,” he told Christianity Today.  “But until Libya, it was only in the textbooks—though deeply ingrained.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/212755977″>Forgiveness Incarnated</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user22194617″>The Bible Society of Egypt</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

     The Islamic State in Libya kidnapped and beheaded 21 mostly Coptic Christians in February 2015.  CT previously reported the message of forgiveness issued by their families and the witness it provided.  “Since then, there has been a paradigm shift,” said Atallah.  “Our ancestors lived and believed this message, but we never had to.”  Now they must, and now, even in death, the Copts forgive.

     For example, the night of the bombings, Orthodox priest Boules George said he loves those who did this crime.  Speaking to a congregation in Cairo, his words were broadcast on the popular Coptic TV station Aghaby.  “I long to talk to you about our Christ, and tell you how wonderful he is,” said George, addressing the terrorists.  But then turning to the church, he said, “How about we make a commitment today to pray for them?  If they know that God is love and experience his love, they could not do these things—never, never, never.”  You may view his amazing “Message to Those Who Kill Us,” (with subtitles) athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO6MwqDlIYY&feature=youtu.be

     Clearly the Coptic heritage and Jesus’ teaching have an impact on the aggrieved…  The traumatic impact and subsequent forgiveness have overcome Coptic lethargy, reviving the church.  The services of Holy Week have doubled in attendance, and the churches are flowing out into the streets…

     This Coptic defiance is not only against an enemy outside, according to Bishop Thomas of Qusia.  It is also against the Enemy within.  He said the Libyan martyrs were a turning point, as Copts watched the victims call out to Jesus in their moment of death.  In his Orthodox diocese 170 miles south of Cairo, many have since repented of sin and changed the focus of their life, making faith a priority.

     “Martyrdom is linked to the Christian life. To carry your cross and follow him,” said Thomas.  “Since we are united to Christ, in this life we are his image.  As he forgave, so must  forgive.”

     “The families of the martyrs are promoting a worldview that is 180 degrees contrary to that of the terrorists,” said  Ehab el-Kharrat, a licensed psychiatrist, former member of parliament, and an elder at Kasr el-Dobara Evangelical Church (KEDC) in Cairo.  “The great majority of Egyptians now carry deep respect for the Copts, who are viewed as patriotic people of faith.”

     Muslims had Christian ancestors, said Ramiz Atallah, and the Coptic heritage is strong…  Middle Eastern culture, however, is based on honor and shame, demanding revenge…  Within this clash of cultures, Atallah said many are now witnessing Christian forgiveness, and find it to be exactly what the country needs.

     Besides frustrating the extremists who want to provoke the Copts, Christians like the widow of Faheem are winning over Muslims as well.  “Their testimony is like a domino, with incredible ramifications in the country,” Atallah said…  The spiritual ramifications run even deeper for Bishop Thomas, who has recently received many unexpected visits of sympathy and solidarity from local Muslim sheikhs and charity workers.  For the past 15 years, his school in Qusia has been a home of civic engagement for Muslims and Christians, discussing ethics and child-rearing for the sake of their kids.  But now Muslims are asking about other issues altogether.

“When people see this attitude from Christians and the church, they ask themselves, ‘What kind of power is this?’” he said.  “But with this witness we must also declare the message of Christ, which we are fulfilling— literally. We may not see the response immediately.  But we will in the near future.”

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Matthew 5:16  —   (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I Peter 3:15-16  —  In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I Peter 4;16  —  If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

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Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2

1403) Bad White Cop Frames Innocent Black Man; and Then…

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The bad white cop and the innocent black man– why are they smiling?

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     While many non-Christians in our society are becoming increasingly anti-Christian, the power of Christian forgiveness can still astound and inspire everyone.  No other belief system has the equivalent of forgiving your brother “seventy times seven,” much less commands you to love your enemies, and bless those who persecute you.  This radical nature of Christian forgiveness is so startling and so overwhelming, that it made the CBS Evening News.

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Watch the video here:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/on-the-road-innocent-michigan-man-ends-up-working-alongside-crooked-cop-that-locked-him/

Or read the transcript from CBS:

     It all went down on a block in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  Back in 2005, Jameel McGee says he was minding his own business when a police officer accused him of, and arrested him for, dealing drugs.

     “It was all made up,” said McGee.  Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim, but not many arresting officers agree.

     “I falsified the report,” former Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins admitted.

     “Basically, at the start of that day, I was going to make sure I had another drug arrest.”  And in the end, he put an innocent guy in jail.

     “I lost everything,” McGeee said.  “My only goal was to seek him when I got out and to hurt him.”

     Eventually, that crooked cop was caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing.  Of course McGee was exonerated, but he still spent four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

     Today both men are back in Benton Harbor, which is a small town (population 10,000).  Maybe a little too small.

     Last year, by sheer coincidence, they both ended up at faith-based employment agency Mosaic, where they now work side by side in the same café.  And it was in those cramped quarters that the bad cop and the wrongfully accused had no choice but to have it out.

     “I said, ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry,'” Collins explained.

     McGee says that was all it took.  “That was pretty much what I needed to hear.”

     Today they’re not only cordial, they’re friends.  Such close friends, not long ago McGee actually told Collins he loved him.

     “And I just started weeping because he doesn’t owe me that.  I don’t deserve that,” Collins said.

     But he didn’t forgive just for his sake, even for Collins’.  “For our sake,” McGee said. “Not just us, but for all our sake.”  McGee went on to tell CBS News about his Christian faith, and his hope for a kinder mankind.  He wants to be an example; so now he and Collins give speeches together about the importance of forgiveness and redemption.

     And clearly, if these two guys from the coffee shop can set aside their bitter grounds, what’s our excuse?

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     Collins is right when he says forgiveness, and the healing it brings in its wake, has nothing to do with “deserve.”  As McGee, a Christian, understood, we forgive one another because, as Paul told both the Ephesians and the Colossians, God in Christ has forgiven us.  There is a power at work here that even the most hardened skeptic cannot deny.

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Matthew 5:43-44  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Luke 6:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Romans 12:14  —  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Ephesians 4:32  —  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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O God of love, who has sent us a new commandment through your Son Jesus Christ, that we should love one another, even as you have loved us, the wayward and unworthy, and has given your Son for our life and salvation; grant to us, your servants, in all the time of our mortal life, a mind forgetful of past ill will, a pure conscience, sincere thoughts, and a heart to love and forgive others.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship, (Presbyterian Church, USA), Westminster, 1906, (altered), originally from The Liturgy of St. Cyril (fourth century).

1399) Friends No More

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Josh and Jeff

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Posted by Joshua Rogers, February 6, 2017, at:  www.joshuarogers.com

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     I didn’t have many friends in middle school, but I had Jeffrey Mitchell, and I needed him.

     Some of the popular boys had started making fun of me, so I was growing increasingly uncomfortable in my own skin.  Jeffrey didn’t seem to care.

     We spent time at each other’s houses, hung around each other during recess, and sat next to each other when we had the same classes.  This included Mrs. Silkman’s seventh grade English class where unfortunately, our friendship came to an abrupt end one day.

     My seventh-grade year, Petal Middle School adopted a zero-tolerance policy for even the slightest infractions– being 30 seconds late for class, whispering to a classmate, chewing gum.  The consequence:  Detention.  Detention.  Detention.

     Detention involved staying after school to sit in Ms. Thompson’s class and stare at a chalkboard for 30 minutes.  That was bearable, but what was much less bearable was the additional consequence for me.  After-school detention meant that I missed my bus, which also meant that my dad had to come get me.  This meant that I was likely to get a spanking.

     One afternoon in English class I was hiding a piece of gum in the back of my mouth, knowing it was a detention-worthy offense.  Nobody noticed– at least they didn’t until Jeffrey raised his hand and asked, “Mrs. Silkman, are we allowed to have gum in class?”

     “No,” she said.

     “Then why does Josh have it?”

     I sat there, stunned.  My best friend had just sold me out for gum possession.

     “Josh, do you have gum in your mouth?” Mrs. Silkman asked.

     “Yes,” I reluctantly admitted, hoping Mrs. Silkman would spare me.  She didn’t.

     My face got hot as I stared at Jeffrey.  I was horrified as the thought sunk in: Jeff isn’t my best friend– he isn’t my friend at all.

     Within seconds, the thoughts and feelings got tangled into knots of bitterness, and I made a rash decision I would regret for many years:  I cut Jeffrey off.

     My girls have recently been disappointed by their closest friends, who sometimes don’t play with them on the playground.  Last weekend I decided to use the story of Jeffrey and me as an example of how friends sometimes let you down.

     After I finished the story, my seven-year old said, “If my friend does that, I’m going to be sad, but then the next day I will forgive her and we will be friends again.”

     That stung just a little.  It certainly wasn’t what I had done to Jeffrey.

     “Did you and Jeffrey become friends again?” my five-year-old asked.

     “No,” I said, and then I paused, realizing something for the first time.  “Actually, I never spoke to him again,” I said.

     My oldest daughter’s chin began trembling.

     “Daddy, he was your best friend.  You can’t just stop being friends like that.”

     “Well, sometimes that’s what happens to friends,” I said.  “Now y’all go to sleep.”

     “Why don’t you text him?” my five-year-old said.

     “I don’t have his number,” I said, getting uneasy.

     “Can you find it?”

     “I don’t know.”

     The tears started running down my oldest daughter’s cheeks.

     “Daddy,” she said, “will you text him tonight?  Please do it, Daddy.  He was your best friend.”

     “Well, his wife is my Facebook friend.”

     Both girls lit up with excitement.

     “So you’ll talk to him through Facebook,” said the youngest.

     I can’t believe this is happening, I thought.

     “Okay, I’ll try.”

     They both cheered.  I took a deep breath and felt a tinge of joy.

     I messaged Jeffrey’s wife, Lauren, and asked for his number without explaining why I wanted it.  She sent it the next day, which provoked a flurry of insecure thoughts in me.

     What if this is totally weird?  What if he doesn’t even remember what happened?  How awkward is this going to be?

     It was too late though.  My girls were invested and I couldn’t let them down.

     Since they were the impetus for the whole thing, I told them I wanted them to be in on the call.  And with them sitting next to me in the living room, I dialed the number.  Someone picked up.

     Even after 25 years, I recognized the voice.  It was Jeffrey.

     I started awkwardly:  “Hey Jeffrey, it’s Joshua Rogers– I bet you’re wondering why I’m calling.”

     “I am,” he said curiously.

     I told him my daughters were there (be nice, Jeffrey!) and said that I had them on speakerphone because I wanted to teach them a lesson.

     “Alright.”

     “So anyway, I don’t know if you remember this, but when we were in seventh grade, we were best friends.  One day, I was sitting in class, and I had a piece of–”

     “I remember,” he said.  “I know what I did and I’ve thought about it many times since then.”

     He stammered a little bit and then said, “You know what happened?  I was mad at you because a few days before, we were sitting in choir and I was joking with you.  I whispered that I wished I could be an opera singer.  You told Ms. Nagy, and she made me get up in front of the class and told me to sing opera for everyone.  I was really embarrassed and I decided to get you back.”

     I hadn’t remembered that part.

     “Listen, man,” I said, looking at my girls, who were sitting on the floor next to me.  “I want you to know I’m sorry for shutting down our friendship, and I’m also sorry for embarrassing you in choir.”

     “I’m sorry for telling on you in class that day,” he said.  “Right afterward, I sat there thinking I couldn’t believe what I had done, and then I was surprised by how you shut me out and our friendship was over.  You were pretty much my only friend, so it was a big blow.”

     “That’s the sad thing,” I said.  “You were pretty much my only guy friend.  I couldn’t afford to lose you.  And I know we can’t change that, but do you want to be friends again?” I said.

     He said yes, and I asked if we could pray together.  After 25 years of silence, it seemed appropriate to for us to have a conversation with God.

     When we got off the phone, I thanked my girls for helping me get my friend back.

     “God just worked through you,” I said.

     My oldest daughter’s eyes welled up with tears and she said, “Maybe that’s why I was born.”

     “It’s definitely part of the reason you were born,” I said.

     In all likelihood, you’ve had a break in a relationship that used to be a source of comfort to you.  Think of that person.  Do you know where they are?  Do you have their contact information?  If you don’t, could you find them through Facebook?

     I wonder what would happen if you reached out to them– if you got their phone number and had the chance to apologize, to listen to their voice when they said, “I remember” and maybe even “I’m sorry.”

     I’ve always liked that quote where Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15).  He initiated it.  He called them friends even though He knew they would one day let Him down when He needed them the most.

     I don’t know what your old friend will do if you call him or her, but that’s not really the issue.  The question is whether you’re willing to call the person a friend again, no matter what they do in response.

     It may take some time to decide whether to call or if it’s even wise to call.  But let’s assume it’s a Jeffrey Mitchell situation– just a bygone misunderstanding that outgrew the circumstances.  Listen to the cry of a couple of little girls:  Call the person.  Send a text.  That person was your friend.  You can’t just stop being friends like that.

     I know it’s risky and scary to put yourself out there after all this time, but at least consider it.  Call that person your friend again, then pick up the phone and just go for it.  You never know what it will mean to that person– more importantly, you never know what it will mean to the One who calls you friend, regardless of what’s in the past.

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Proverbs 20:3  —  It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Proverbs 19:11  —  A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Luke 5:20b  —  (Jesus said), “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

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Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  –Jesus

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Josh and Jeff today; friends once again.

1330) Three Types of Forgiveness

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By Stephen Marmer of UCLA Medical School, for Prager University.  Read the transcript below or view this five minute video (it is excellent!):

https://www.prageru.com/courses/life-studies/forgiveness

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     Anyone familiar with Italian opera or the plays of Shakespeare knows the terrible price paid for grudges, vendetta, and revenge.  Under the sway of these emotions painful incidents linger in the mind, sapping our ability to find peace and happiness.  The 18th century English poet, Alexander Pope, gave us the antidote: “ to err is human, to forgive divine.”  But finding a way to forgive without giving up our principles is often no easy task.  I am going to address what forgiveness is and how to implement it.

     I’ll be speaking here about forgiveness where it most often is needed — in the context of your every day personal life with family members, friends, co-workers, and business associates.

     One of our challenges in understanding this process is that the word — forgiveness — is inadequate to explain a very complex concept.  Forgiveness actually embodies three different things, each of which applies to different situations and provides different results.

     The three types of forgiveness are: exoneration, forbearance and release.

     Let’s take each in turn.

     Exoneration is the closest to what we usually think of when we say “forgiveness”.  Exoneration is wiping the slate entirely clean and restoring a relationship to the full state of innocence it had before the harmful actions took place.  There are three common situations in which exoneration applies.

     The first takes place when you realize that the harmful action was a genuine accident for which no fault can be assigned.

     The second is when the offender is a child or someone else who, for whatever reason, simply didn’t understand the hurt they were inflicting, and toward whom you have loving feelings.

     The third situation occurs when the person who hurt you is truly sorry, takes full responsibility (without excuses) for what they did, asks forgiveness, and gives you confidence that they will not knowingly repeat their bad action in the future.

     In all such situations it is essential to accept their apology and offer them the complete forgiveness of exoneration. You’ll feel better and so will the person who hurt you.  In fact, not to offer forgiveness in these circumstances would be harmful to your own well-being.  It might even suggest that there is something more wrong with you than with the person who caused you pain.

     The second type of forgiveness I call “forbearance.”  And here things get a little more complicated.

     Forbearance applies when the offender makes a partial apology or mingles their expression of sorrow with blame that you somehow caused them to behave badly.  An apology is offered but it’s not what you had hoped for and may not even be fully authentic.  While you should always reflect on whether there was a provocation on your part, even  when you bear no responsibility you should exercise forbearance if the relationship matters to you.  Cease dwelling on the particular offense, do away with grudges and fantasies of revenge, but retain a degree of watchfulness. This is similar to “forgive but not forget” or “trust but verify.”  By using forbearance you are able to maintain ties to people who, while far from perfect, are still important to you.

     Furthermore, in some cases after a sufficient period of good behavior, forbearance can rise to exoneration and full forgiveness.

     But what do you do when the person who hurt you doesn’t even acknowledge that they’ve done anything wrong or gives an obviously insincere apology,  making no reparations whatsoever?  These are the cases of forgiveness that are the most challenging.  In my practice, I find this in such examples as adult survivors of child abuse, business people who have been cheated by their partners, or friends or relatives who have betrayed one another.  Still, even here there still is a solution.  I call it “release” — the third type of forgiveness.

     Release does not exonerate the offender. Nor does it require forbearance.  It doesn’t even demand that you continue the relationship.  But it does ask that instead of continuing to define much of your life in terms of the hurt done, you release your bad feelings and your preoccupation with the negative things that have happened to you.  Release does something that is critically important: it allows you to let go of the burden, the “silent tax” that is weighing you down and eating away at your chance for happiness.  If you do not release the pain and anger and move past dwelling on old hurts and betrayals, you will be allowing the ones who hurt you to live, rent free, in your mind, reliving forever the persecution that the original incident started.

     Whether you get there through your own efforts, through psychotherapy, through religion or some other method, release liberates you from the tyranny of living in the traumatic past even when the other forms of forgiveness, exoneration and forbearance, are not possible.

     Exoneration, Forbearance, Release.

     To forgive may be divine, but when we understand its dimensions we find that it is within our ability to do it.

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Luke 17:3-5  —  (Jesus said), “So watch yourselves.  If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  (Exoneration  —  ‘If they repent…’)

Colossians 3:13  —  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Forbearance  —  ‘Bear with one another…’)

Ephesians 4:31-32  —  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (Release  —  Just ‘get rid‘ of it all)

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Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

–Jesus

1329) Forgiveness is Costly

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From The Daily Study Bible by William Barclay:

     Here is the eternal principle:  Forgiveness is a costly thing.  Human forgiveness is costly.  A son or a daughter may go wrong; a father or a mother may forgive; but that forgiveness has brought tears; it has brought whiteness to the hair, lines to the faces, a cutting anguish, and then a long dull ache to the heart.  It did not cost nothing.  There was the price of a broken heart to pay.

     Divine forgiveness is costly.  God is love, but God is holiness.  God, least of all, can break the great moral laws on which the universe is built.  Sin must have its punishment or the very structure of life disintegrates.  And God alone can pay the terrible price that is necessary before men can be forgiven.  Forgiveness is never a matter of saying:  “It’s all right; it doesn’t matter.”  Forgiveness is the most costly thing in the world.  Without the shedding of heart’s blood there can be no remission and forgiveness of sins.  There is nothing which brings the effect of his sin on someone with such arresting violence as to see the effect of his sin on someone who loves him in this world, or on the God who loves him forever, and to say to himself:  “It cost that to forgive my sin.”  Where there is forgiveness, someone must be crucified on a cross.

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“The essence of forgiveness is absorbing pain instead of giving it.”  

–Tim Keller

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“Forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.  To not retaliate is to absorb the cost.”

Tim Keller

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Hebrews 9:22b  —  Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Matthew 26:27-28  —  Then (Jesus) took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

I Peter 2:21b…23-24  —  Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps…  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

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Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

–Jesus

1309) A Little Experiment

From I Am ‘N’ published by ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ organization, pages 233-235 copyright 2016.  Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand were the founders of ‘Voice of the Martyrs.’ ( http://www.persecution.org )

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Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand

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     Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand were married in 1936.  Both were Germans of Jewish descent.  Richard, intellectually gifted and fluent in nine languages, worked as a stockbroker and participated in leftist politics.

     Two years after getting married, Richard and Sabina both became Christians. They joined the Anglican Mission to the Jews in Bucharest.  Richard was ordained, first as an Anglican and after World War II as a Lutheran minister.

     During the war, they preached in bomb shelters and rescued children from ghettos.  They were repeatedly arrested and beaten and, at least once, nearly executed.  Sabina lost her Jewish family in Nazi concentration camps.

     After the war, the couple stood for Christ even though it meant certain persecution by the Communist Party.  Richard distributed Bibles to Russian troops, and in 1948, the secret police arrested and imprisoned him.  He would not be completely free until 1965.  Meanwhile, Sabina was imprisoned for two years and forced to work as a laborer on the Danube Canal.

     Ultimately, Richard and Sabina became known as “the voice of the underground church.”  In 1967, they began The Voice of the Martyrs ministry.  But for all they accomplished on a global scale, their greatest legacy may be their penchant to forgive.  In his book In God’s Underground, Richard wrote about an incident in Romania involving a man named Borila, who was responsible for killing Sabina’s family in a Jewish death camp in the early 1940s.  Richard and Borila were introduced by their landlord.  As they talked, Borila boasted about the huge number of Jews he had killed during the war.

     “It is a frightening story,” Richard replied, “but I do not fear for the Jews— God will compensate them for what they have suffered.  I ask myself with anguish what will happen to the murderers when they stand before God’s judgment.” .

     Borila reacted as if he were going to pounce on Richard, but the landlord diffused the situation.  Knowing the man loved music, Richard offered to play the piano for him.  “I remembered how, when King Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit,” he wrote later, “the boy David had played the harp for him.”

     After a few songs, Richard turned to Borila.  He nodded toward the bedroom where Sabina slept and said, “Her parents, her sisters, her twelve-year-old brother, and the rest of her family were killed.  You told me that you had killed hundreds near Golta, and that is where they were taken.”

     This time Borila looked as if he would strangle Richard, who then said, “Now let’s try a little experiment.  I shall wake my wife and tell her who you are, and what you have done.  I can tell you what will happen.  My wife will not speak one word of reproach.  She’ll embrace you as if you were her brother.  She’ll bring you supper.  Now, if Sabina, who is a sinner like us all, can forgive and love like this, imagine how Jesus, who is perfect Love, can forgive and love you.  Only turn to Him, and everything you have done will be forgiven!”

     Borila sobbed.  For years, he had been consumed by guilt, unable to sleep, his shame covered by his boasting.  “I’m a murderer,” he managed to say.  “I’m soaked in blood.  What shall I do?”

     Richard cried out, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command the devil of hatred out of your soul.”

     Both men fell to their knees, then stood up and hugged.

     It was time for the experiment.  Richard gently awakened Sabina.  “There is a man here whom you must meet,” he said.  “We believe he has murdered your family, but he has repented, and now he is your brother,”

     Sabina came out, put her arms around Borila, and embraced him.  Both wept.  Then, as Richard had foretold, she went into the kitchen to make him supper.

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Hebrews 9:27-28  —  Just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Luke 4:35  —  “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly.  “Come out of him!”  Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

Matthew 6:14-16  —  (Jesus said), “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

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Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

–Jesus, Matthew 6:12

1296) Forgiveness Tested

From Tramp for the Lord, by Corrie ten Boom, 1974, pages 55-57. 

       It was in a church in Munich that I saw him– a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands.  People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.  It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.  (Corrie ten Boom, a Christian, had spent two years in a Nazi concentration camp, sentenced there for hiding Jews in her home in Holland.  All the rest of her family died in the camps.)

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Betsie, Nollie, Casper, Willem, Cornelia, Corrie ten Boom in 1900.

     It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture.  Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.  “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.  And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, “NO FISHING ALLOWED.”

     The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe.  There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947.  People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

     And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others.  One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next moment, (in my mind), I saw a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.  It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man.  I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin.  Betsie, how thin you were!  The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard– one of the most cruel guards.  Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out:  “A fine message, Fraulein!  How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

     And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand.  He would not remember me, of course– how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?  But I remembered him.  I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.  “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying.  “I was a guard there.”  No, he did not remember me.  “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian.  I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well.  Fraulein,” — again the hand came out — “will you forgive me?”

     And I stood there– I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven– and could not forgive.  Betsie had died in that place– could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?  It could not have been many seconds that he stood there– hand held out– but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.  For I had to do it– I knew that.  The message that God forgives has a prior condition:  that we forgive those who have injured us.  “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

     I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience.  Since the end of the war I had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.  Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars.  Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids.  It was as simple and as horrible as that.

     And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart.  But forgiveness is not an emotion– I knew that too.  Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.  “Jesus help me!” I prayed silently.  “I can lift my hand.  I can do that much.  You supply the feeling.”

     And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me.  And as I did, an incredible thing took place.  The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, and sprang into our joined hands.  And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.  “I forgive you, brother!” I cried.  “With all my heart.”

     For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner.  I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.  But even so, I realized it was not my love.  I had tried, and did not have the power.  It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, “. . . because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Living Bible).

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Romans 5:5 — And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 

Matthew 5:7 — (Jesus said), “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Romans 8:26b — …The Spirit helps us in our weakness… 

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Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  

–Jesus

1271) Forgiven

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On October 2, 2006, ten years ago yesterday, Charles Roberts walked into an Amish school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, took hostages, and then shot ten school girls (ages 6-13), killing five of them.  He then killed himself.  The senseless and horrific mass murder became a national news story.  Then, almost immediately, followed another kind of story.  The response of forgiveness and reconciliation on the part of the Amish community astonished and inspired everyone.  Last year Terri Roberts, the mother of the murderer, told her story in a book titled Forgiven (written with Jeanette Windle, Bethany House Publishers, 2015, http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com).  The following is an excerpt from that book.

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     On October 1, 2006, my son Charlie, his wife, Marie, and their children came over to our house in Strasburg, Pennsyvania.  Later, as we said our farewells, Charlie seemed quieter than usual.  It would be the last time I’d see him alive.

     The next day, on my lunch break at work, I heard sirens and wondered what could be happening in our small rural community.  Just as I got back to my desk, my husband, Chuck, called.  He asked me to come immediately to Charlie and Marie’s home.  As I hurried down the stairway from my office, a sense of foreboding squeezed my stomach.

     The drive was only 10 minutes, but I heard on the radio that there had been a shooting at an Amish schoolhouse nearby.  Children were among the dead and injured.  Charlie drove a truck for his father-in-law’s business collecting milk from area dairy farms, and he often parked right near the school.  Fear clutched at my heart.  Could he have intervened to help and been killed?  As soon as I got to his house and pushed through the crowd of police and reporters, I asked a trooper if my son was alive.  “No, ma’am,” he responded somberly.

     I turned to my husband.  With pain in his eyes, he choked out, “It was Charlie.  He killed those girls.”

     All I recall is falling to the ground in a fetal position, wailing.  Eventually, we were walked to the police cruiser and driven home.  My husband is a retired police officer.  I could not imagine his feelings as he was escorted out like a perpetrator after 30 years of being the one who did the escorting.

     Chuck sat at our breakfast table, crying.  I had not seen my strong, protective husband shed tears since his father passed away years before.  Now he could not even lift his head.  He’d covered his face with a dish towel to control the flow of tears, his eyes sunken and dull.

     And I had no answers.  Even after hearing from police what the survivors saw, I struggled to accept the reality.  My beloved son had walked into the schoolhouse with an arsenal of guns, boarded up the windows and doors, bound and shot 10 girls, ages 6 to 13, then killed himself.  Five of the children died.

     Later, anger set in, mixing with my pain.  Where were you, God?  I found myself screaming out in my head.  How could you let this happen?  I didn’t understand how Charlie could leave his children fatherless, to face the shame and the horror.  And the gentle Amish families— what darkness had so possessed Charlie that he would want to rip away daughters as precious as his own?  And I felt enormous self-doubt.  I didn’t know what kind of mother could bear a son who could perpetrate such horrible deeds.

     As we sat and sobbed, I looked through our window and caught sight of a stalwart figure dressed in black.  It was our neighbor Henry Stoltzfoos, whom we’d known for years.  He is an Amish man, and was dressed in his formal visiting attire and wide-brimmed straw hat.  Striding up to the front door, Henry knocked.

     Mind you, Henry had friends and relatives whose daughters had died in that schoolhouse, at the hands of our son.  Like all the Amish, he had every reason to hate us.

     But as I opened the door, I saw that Henry didn’t look angry.  Instead, compassion radiated from his face.  Walking over to Chuck, he put one hand on his shoulder.  The first words I heard him speak took my breath away:  “Roberts, we love you.  This was not your doing.  You must not blame yourself.”

     For more than an hour, Henry stood by my husband, consoling him and affirming his love and forgiveness.  Chuck kept saying that we had to move away from the people Charlie had hurt.  But Henry reassured Chuck that there was no reason for us to move.  The Amish did not hold our family responsible for Charlie’s actions.  “I think the devil used your boy,” Henry said.

     By the time he left, my husband was sitting up straight, some of the burden eased from his shoulders.  To this day I call Henry “my angel in black.”  But he was far from the only one to show tremendous grace and forgiveness in the face of loss.  The next day, a group of Amish leaders walked into the yard of Marie’s parents’ house.  Every one of them had a family member who had died in the schoolhouse.  But they did not raise fists in fury.  They reached to pull Marie’s father into their embrace.  Together, the families of the victims and the father-in-law of their killer wept and prayed.

     While I was grateful for the reaction we received, I can’t say I understood it.  “If we will not forgive, how can we be forgiven?” a spokesman for the Amish said on the news shows covering the shooting.  “Forgiveness is a choice.  We choose to forgive,” another spokesperson added.

     But these were not just words.  The Amish insisted that part of the funds donated to help the victims’ families go to Marie and her children— for they’d lost a husband and father.  And one grieving father of a girl Charlie had killed visited us.  I shared how brokenhearted I was that our son Zach would not attend Charlie’s funeral— he couldn’t forgive him.  I asked him to pray that Zach would have a change of heart.

      “Of course,” he said.  Then, “Would you like me to call him?”

     The Amish don’t keep phones in their homes and have a distaste for such technology, so his offer deeply touched me.  He left a message asking Zach to forgive his brother and come support his family.

     A few days later, Zach was there.  He told us later that our pleas had softened his heart, but his turning point had been that message.

     And there was still more kindness.  After my son’s service, at the grave site, the media jostled to take pictures.  All at once, at least 30 Amish emerged from behind a shed, the men in their tall, wide-brimmed hats, the women in white bonnets.  The group fanned out into a crescent between the grave site and the photographers, their backs offering a solid wall of black to the cameras.  They did this to show compassion for the family of the man who had taken so much from them.

     Fresh anger shook me then.  I could think only of the terrible wrong Charlie had done.  At that moment I was not sure that I could ever forgive the unspeakable evil he’d perpetrated on these young parents, his own children, our family.  Yet neither could I stop loving Charlie.  He was my son.

     I held on to my composure as our Amish guests stepped forward to express their condolences.  Among the first to approach us were Chris and Rachel Miller, whose daughters, Lena and Mary Liz, had died in their arms.  Murmuring a greeting to Chuck and me, they added softly, “We are so sorry for your loss.”

     Sorry for our loss.  I could barely choke out a response.  Our son had taken the lives of their daughters.  And here they were comforting us!

     It was a moment of sudden, healing clarity for me.  Forgiveness is a choice.  The Amish had made that very clear, but now I knew what it meant:  Forgiveness isn’t a feeling.  These sweet parents were as grief-stricken as I was, their hearts broken like mine.  I did not have to stop feeling anger, hurt and utter bewilderment at the horrific decisions Charlie had made.  I only had to make a choice:  to forgive.

     And I understood the other part of what the Amish had said:  If we cannot forgive, how can we be forgiven?  I am not a murderer, but I have committed wrongs as well.  And I was forgiven!  How can I, in turn, not offer the forgiveness I’ve received— even to my own son?  Especially to my own son.

     Over the last decade, the love our family was given has inspired me to spread the message of forgiveness wherever I can, often hand in hand with the Amish families my son had harmed.  October 2, 2006, brought a tsunami to my world.  But I’ve learned that without storms, there’d be no rainbows.  I don’t know what is coming, but I am not afraid.  I’ve come to trust my life to the God of both storms and rainbows.

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Terri Roberts

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II Corinthians 2:10b-11  —  (Paul wrote),  “What I have forgiven…, I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us.  For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

I John 1:8-9  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Luke 6:37  —  (Jesus said), “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

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Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

–Jesus

1254) The Man Who Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor Meets Jesus

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Captain Mitsuo Fuchida  (1902-1976)

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     Mitsuo Fuchida was born on December 3, 1902 in Nagao, Japan.  Thirty-nine years and four days later he led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  His story, told in his own words, tells of the mark he left on history— and the mark God left on him.

     I must admit I was more excited than usual as I awoke that morning at 3:00 a.m. Hawaii time.  As General Commander of the Air Squadron, I made last minute checks on the intelligence information reports in the Operations Room before going to warm up my single-engine three-seater plane.

     The sunrise in the east was magnificent above the white clouds as I led 360 planes towards Hawaii.  I knew my objective:  to surprise and cripple the American naval force in the Pacific.

     Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive-bombers, and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury.  It was the most thrilling exploit of my career…

     Four years later, when the war ended, it was the end of my military career.  I became more and more unhappy, especially when the war crime trials opened in Tokyo.  Though I was never accused, General Douglas MacArthur summoned me to testify on several occasions.

     As I got off the train one day in Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, I saw an American distributing literature.  He handed me a pamphlet entitled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan.”  What I read eventually changed my life.  On that Sunday while I was in the air over Pearl Harbor, an American soldier named Jacob DeShazer had been on K.P. duty in an army camp in California.  When the radio announced the sneak attack which demolished Pearl Harbor, he shouted “Japs, just wait and see what we’re going to do to you.”

     One month later he volunteered for a secret mission with the Jimmy Doolittle Squadron– a surprise raid on Tokyo.  After the bombing raid, they flew on towards China but ran out of fuel and were forced to parachute into Japanese-held territory.  During the next 40 long months in confinement, DeShazer was cruelly treated.  After 25 months the U.S. prisoners were given a Bible to read…  There in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, he read and read— and eventually came to understand that the book was more than a historical classic.

     After DeShazer was released, he returned to Japan as a missionary, and in God’s providence gave Fuchida the tract he had written.  Fuchida continues:

     The peaceful motivation I had read about in the pamphlet was exactly what I was seeking.  Since the American had found it in the Bible, I decided to purchase one myself, despite my traditional Buddhist heritage.

     In the weeks that followed I read this book eagerly.  I came to the climactic drama— the Crucifixion.  I read in Luke 23:34 the prayer of Jesus Christ at His death: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  I was impressed that I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed.  The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not yet know anything about the love of Christ  that he wishes to implant within every heart.

     Right at that moment I seemed to meet Jesus for the first time.  I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness; and so in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins, and change me from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living…

     I believe with all my heart that those who will direct Japan— and all other nations— in the decades to come must not ignore the message of Christ.  He is the only hope for this troubled world.

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For Jacob Deshazer’s story  go to:

http://www.emailmeditations.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/1013-forgiving-the-enemy/

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I Timothy 1:13-14  —  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

I Timothy 1:15-16  —  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Romans 5:10  —  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

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“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

–Jesus, Luke 23:34