Is there anyone for which you are withholding forgiveness? Are you hoping to make someone suffer a little longer before you forgive them? What does God expect of you?
I have a friend (who asked me to keep him anonymous) who served in the Vietnam War. He told me stories of his service and the pain he (and many others) have suffered. He has recurring images of conflict, blood, noise, gunfire, and utter insanity. He has scarred memories of people screaming in fear and hurt, even civilians, all caught up in a terrible season of suffering.
He remembers journalists and photographers embedded to cover the War and one in particular who covered his unit. This photographer captured the disturbing series of events one day that corroborated a friendly fire incident that left his unit injured, with some dead. Sadly, the event involved napalm.
Napalm, similar to jelled gasoline, severely burned several soldiers. They endured many operations and scars, mental and emotional turmoil, and ongoing pain that continued daily until their deaths. My friend told me about the pain, anger, and bitterness he initially experienced against his fellow soldiers and officers who made the mistake of firing on them.
Amazingly, my friend, expressed the need for reconciliation and healing for all who were involved in the war. He told me the Army chaplains played a great role in helping him and his unit members get through an ugly episode, and get on a path to healing and wholeness.
His attitude came from a heart of gratitude to God. Raised a Christian, my friend said he accepted Jesus at a young age, but drifted from God in high school. His time in the military caused him to be healed in many ways, even spiritually. “God used our suffering to bring me back to him,” he told me.
Read Luke 7:36-48.
Years ago, my friend recalled a reunion of his unit at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. He told his mates that “They had suffered a lot of physical and emotional pain, and he often thought of taking his life to escape. Yet God had saved him and gave him faith and hope to confront his pain and need to forgive.”
He spoke of forgiveness to those who contributed to the suffering of he and his comrades, as well as those they fought in Vietnam. When he finished, several of his fellow soldiers agreed and offered their plea for healing. They went so far as to track down the guilty soldiers and though it took time, many relationships were rescued from a very, ugly series of tragic events. Several wept. They all agreed that “for us to forgive those that literally wounded us personally means something. It was a step that helped all of us to fix some of the brokenness we all carried.”
Some of us have been greatly hurt by someone. Can we ever forgive them? Some of us may have caused emotional harm to someone else. Have we asked for forgiveness? My friend would argue that if he and his napalm injured army friends can forgive, why not you?
Live communally. When we forgive, two people are set free.
Love is a verb,
©2016 by Mike Olejarz