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What it Means to Truly Forgive and Forget

Lewis Smedes is an author who wrote the book Forgive and Forget. In it he tells about an Allied prisoner who was forced to work in a Nazi field hospital. One day a nurse escorted him to the bed of a dying German soldier. The soldier asked to be forgiven for his part in the Holocaust, saying “I know what I am asking is almost too much, but without your forgiveness I cannot die in peace.” The prisoner thought a long minute and then walked away without forgiving the soldier who died shortly thereafter. I suspect that many of us would have had trouble giving that soldier forgiveness. When we have been deliberately and terribly harmed by someone, to forgive them even when they sincerely beg for it is difficult indeed. There is something in us that cries out for revenge. We want that person to experience the pain he or she has brought upon us. And yet we know that this is not the way of the Lord. He who cried out from the cross, “Father forgive them”, He who bore the punishment due to our disobedience of the Father, He who instructed us to forgive as we have been forgiven, requires us to want to forgive even when it seems impossible for us. In fact it well might well be impossible except for the working of the Holy Spirit in us who makes possible what we cannot do ourselves. We must pray for that power because the Lord is so clear about what his followers must offer to one another in His name. In the true story offered above, the prisoner survived the war, and according to Smedes, could not forget his inability to forgive the German. It bothered him the rest of his life. Lack of forgiveness kills two people: the offender and the one offended.


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