Summary: God’s concern is people. And He uses you and me to reach them. Do you share His passion for people. Or are you more wrapped up in your own concerns. Too busy fighting unimportant, trivia. Consumed by your own well-being, your own desires, your own co
I think that one of the most incredible, humble, genuine Christians who ever lived is a lady called Cornelia Johanna Arnolda ten Boom, better known as Corrie ten Boom. During the second world war Corrie and her family (her father, and brothers and sisters) were heavily involved in the Dutch Underground hiding refugees in what later became well known as ‘the hiding place’. They rescued many Jews from certain death at the hands of the German SS. In fact in December 1967, Corrie was honoured as one of the Righteous Amongst the Nations by Israel because of her efforts in world war 2.
However, one day an informant gave them away and on 28th February 1944 the entire Boom family were arrested and sent to Scheveningen prison where her father died just 10 days after his arrest. They were then sent on to Vught Political Concentration Camp and then finally in September 1944 to the notorious Ravensbrook Concentration Camp in Germany where Corrie’s sister Betsie died. Before she died she told Corrie, "There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still." Corrie was released on Christmas Day of December 1944. In the movie The Hiding Place, Ten Boom narrates the section on her release from camp, saying that she later learned that her release had been a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release. She said, "God does not have problems. Only plans."
After the war Corrie made a name for herself as an author and an international speaker appearing in over 60 countries with her message about the Christian Gospel and specifically the message of forgiveness. In her book Tramp for the Lord (1974), she tells the story of how, after she had been teaching in a church in Germany in 1947 (just 3 years after her release), after the service she was approached by one of the cruellest former Ravensbrück camp guards. She writes:
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood
guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first
of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face. He came up
to me as the church was emptying, smiling. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people about the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. 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 any more 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.
And she goes on to write, ‘For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I have never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.’
Forgive? Could you forgive somebody who had inflicted so much pain, and destruction and death not just to people in general, but to you and to your family. Forgive – really?
When we were over in Germany on holiday recently we paid a visit to Belsen Concentration Camp, and we went into the museum part. We looked at the pictures. We listened to the personal testimonies of people who had suffered at the hands of their captives in the camp. We watched video footage that was taken by the British Army in the days following the liberation. The scenes were horrendous, beyond description. How could one human being do something like that to another human being? How can one person treat another person in such a way? Stripped of all their clothing. Stripped of all their pride and dignity, treated like animals. Forced to walk around in the bitter cold and rain, naked. Beaten black and blue. Raped, starved, diseased, murdered! You know the video was so horrific, and so graphic that a couple of teenagers who were on a school visit walked out. And what made it even worse were the smiles on the faces of the camp guards – even after their capture. No sign of remorse for what they had done. Forgive – really?