‘The Hiding Place’ is the popular World War 2 biography of Corrie Ten Boom, who tells of her internment in the Ravensbruck concentration camp after her family were arrested for harbouring Jews. The death of her sister and father at the hands of the Nazis, though, left her understandably shaken. She tells the story of an encounter with one of the most brutal prison guards after the war.
Having heard her speaking publicly, he approached her and asked for her forgiveness. Reluctant to give it, she felt convicted to do so based on her Christian faith and found this to be one of the most moving and liberating experiences of her life.
The inspiration in stories like this can sometimes mask the fact that it is in forgiveness that we don’t only release the other person from guilt, but we release ourselves from any obligation to be imprisoned by offence. Relinquishing such very understandable rights can be a powerful healing key to dissolving inner tension and freeing a path to the future. After all, the people against whom we may feel justly embittered are often unaware and untouched by their own wrongdoing.
Finding forgiveness often ironically comes through asking for the power to forgive from God who has already forgiven us much. Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) shows us that we can indeed forgive when we realise that we have ourselves been forgiven much if we respond to God’s grace which changes our perspective on life, just as it did for Corrie Ten Boom.