Power to Love and Forgive

Christianity is a religion of love. It is about the love of God for a lost world. It is about Jesus’ love for sinners (the love which took Him to the cross!). It is about the love of the Holy Spirit who loves lost people and comes into them to change them and make them new. The Holy Spirit also creates in us a new power to love.

This love is a love that goes beyond the natural love that humans have for one another. It is a supernatural love, a love that loves even in the face of hate.

This supernatural love is illustrated beautifully in Corrie Ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place. This book tells us the true story of how Corrie and her sister Betsie helped the Jews in the Netherlands escape to freedom. Eventually, they were arrested and placed in Nazi concentration camps. Betsie herself died in the camp, and Corrie lived to tell her story.

Corrie’s story was a story of love. Corrie learned through her sister Betsie’s example that God could give a power to love and forgive even those who seemed to have nothing in them to love at all. It is the story of the love of Christ which descends to the lowest hell, shines in the deepest darkness, and overcomes the most vicious hatred.

After World War 2, Corrie went around sharing her story. One place she went was Germany. There after one of the services, she met one of the former SS guards who had abused them in Ravensbruck. He had become a Christian. In the following passage, Corrie describes the experience. It illustrates the challenge of loving God’s way but also the power Christ gives to love in that way:

I continued to speak . . . I traveled all over Holland, to other parts of Europe, to the United States.

But the place where the hunger was greatest was Germany. . . .

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the 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 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, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein. He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed away my sin!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal [a rehabilitation center Corrie founded for those who had experienced Nazi concentration camps] 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 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 depends, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.

There is power for love in the Christian faith. It is the power of the risen Christ. I would encourage you to read The Hiding Place and see the full context of these words.

Note: You can also listen to a sermon I (Pastor Wes) preached on forgiveness in which I quoted this passage as my conclusion. Right click and download it here.