Genuine Believers Live a Life of Confession and Repentance, Part 3 – June 3, 2022

Corrie Ten Boom was a young Dutch woman during World War 2 in Amsterdam. From 1942-1944, her family hid Jews from the Germans in their home. However, they were discovered in 1944 and her entire family was sent to prison camps where they suffered unspeakable atrocities. When the war ended, Corrie was the lone surviving member of her family. After the war, she began to travel the world speaking to groups about the struggles of the war and the forgiveness of God. One day in 1947, the unthinkable happened. She relates the incident in her book, Tramp for the Lord.

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to a defeated Germany with the message that God forgives … 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, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and cross bones. 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 past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin.

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 and the leather crop swinging from his belt. 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. 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, will you forgive me?’

And I stood there – I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven – and I 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 like 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 forgive your trespasses.’

I still 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, 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, but I 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 Ghost which is given unto us’.”[1]

May God grant us this heart of forgiveness for all those that wrong us. True forgiveness is in short supply today. Yet, it is needed in great supply today. Next week we will spend some time examining some confusion around forgiveness that may help us learn to forgive.


[1] Corrie Ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1994), 55-57.