April 15, 1997
Kiyoko Tanimoto, a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, met one of the bomber pilots at a Christian meeting in the United States. All over again, bitter hatred filled his heart. Then, listening to the pilot, he realized the man’s own horror of that event. As a Christian, Tanimoto was able to forgive the pilot.
Corrie Ten Boom, survivor of a German death camp, saw one of her former guards in a church service. She remembered his cruelty toward her sister and herself, but when he held out his hand to her, she asked God to help her greet him. In the name of Jesus, she was able to forgive.
Forgiveness is God’s universal medicine. It cures anger and restores relationships. It powerfully melts animosity between the bitterest of enemies and brings them together as friends. It has also been known to cure anxiety, depression and fear.
Yet the most common response to insult or injury is not forgiveness but retaliation. On a large scale, the wars in Bosnia are a centuries old deadly game of I-touched-you-last between three nations seeking revenge on each other for past atrocities. In the Middle East, the Arab-Jewish conflict goes back 4000 years to rival half-brothers, Abraham and Ishmael.
On a personal level, retaliation produces physical conflict, marital splits, even murder. Children and adults battle over rights and toys. Couples stand before judges and claim irreconcilable differences. Nicole Brown Simpson no doubt lost her life because of retaliation. Those caught in revenge refuse to say “I forgive you” yet forgiveness would change statistics.
Conflict between people is an extension and symptom of a deeper conflict—the battle between man and God. The Bible says that “We like sheep have gone astray. We have turned to our own way.” In that turning away from God we demonstrate our animosity toward Him.
“Whoa,” some would say. “I am not anti-God.” Perhaps there is no consciousness of animosity, but God says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one... There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Our sinful, self-seeking ways create a separation or a rift and even blindness to it. Because of sin’s hold on us, we are not inclined to built a bridge across the gap and even if we were, we cannot by ourselves restore the relationship.
However, God has made the first move. The Bible says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In his loving kindness and desire for reconciliation, God opened the way for us by having His Son take the penalty we deserved. “God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”
Such forgiveness does not white-wash our rejection of God and His commands. If God could just say, “Oh, sin doesn’t matter” there would have been no need for Christ to die. Sin is serious, just as the atrocities and violence of people against other people is serious.
Because of our sin, we deserve God’s wrath but the Gospel says He offers forgiveness because His Son bore our punishment. It is for Christ’s sake that God can choose not to hold our sins against us.
The ultimate sin by which we will all be judged, is whether or not we trusted in Christ. Therefore, God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal requires a response of faith and trust. When we respond that way, we experience forgiveness and “peace with God.”
That peace produces an overflow. We know forgiveness and can therefore offer it to others and as we do, this wonderful “medicine” not only cures conflict but eliminates retaliation.