To understand forgiveness it might help to walk back a few decades into the laboratories of a young inventor named Thomas Alva Edison. He was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together.
The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work.
It's not too hard to understand how the young fellow felt—some moms still get mad at kids for breaking light bulbs, and it doesn't even take 24 hours to build another one. You've probably guessed what happened by now; yep, the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs.
It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs.
He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one.
That's true forgiveness.—James Newton, Uncommon Friends, (New York: Har-court Brace Javonovich).
The brilliant theologian Paul Tillich said that nothing greater can happened to a human being than to be forgiven.
In one of those ubiquitous Peanuts cartoon strips, Lucy is chasing Charlie Brown around and around the house. "I'll get you, Charlie Brown, I'll get you!" Suddenly, Charlie Brown stops. Lucy comes to a screeching stop. Charlie Brown says, "If we, who are children, cannot forgive one another, how can we expect our parents, who are adult, to forgive one another, and in turn, how can the world..."
At this point Lucy punches Charlie Brown in the nose and knocks him down.
Turning to a friend who has just come up, Lucy explains:
"I had to hit him,
he was beginning to make sense."—Norm Lawson
I read in a bulletin recently a classic illustration of this principle. When Moravian missionaries first went to the Eskimos, they could not find a word that meant "forgiveness" in their language. So they had to compound one. It turned out toe be "issumagijoujungnainermik". It is a formidable looking assembly of letters, but an expression that has deep meaning for us as we consider this aspect of forgiveness. It translates several words literally as: "not being able to think about it anymore." We are to forgive our brother and act as if it never happened. It must not affect our further relationship.—Don Emmitte.
Let me illustrate this principle with a true story from the life of one of our missionaries to Korea. During the Korean war, a South Korean Christian, a civilian, was arrested by the communists and ordered shot. When a young communist leader learned that the prisoner was in charge of an orphanage caring for small children, he decided to spare him and execute his son instead. So they shot his nineteen year old son in his presence.
Later the fortunes of war changed. The young communist leader was captured by the United Nations forces. He was tried and condemned to death for his war crimes. Before the sentence could be carried out, the Christian whose son had been executed pleaded for the life of the young communist. He testified that he had been young, and that he really didn't know what he was doing. "Give him to me," said the father, "and I'll train him."
The United Nations forces granted the request, and that father took the murderer of his son into his home and began to care for him. Today the young communist is pastor of one of the larger Christian churches in Korea. —Don Emmittee.
As the earth quake of 1906 in San Francisco caused buildings to reel and tremble for nearly a minute, a man ran out on market square and shook hands with a man he had refused to speak to for ten years.
The Koreans are a peace-loving people. For the most part, their history is one of love towards their neighbors. Yet they have found themselves constantly under attack over the centuries, as surrounding nations have tried to make the Koreans their slaves. Shortly after the turn of the century, Japan invaded Korea. The Japanese army boarded up churches and ejected most foreign missionaries. They made it illegal to attend worship services. One pastor consistency begged his local Japanese police chief for permission to hold a service. Finally, the chief allowed the building to be unlocked for one meeting. The news spread quickly. Hungry believers from miles around poured into the church, passing by the steely eyes of their captors.
The Korean church is a singing church, and the passion for praising the Lord in song was let loose that morning, as chorus after chorus filled the sanctuary. During the middle of a stanza of "Nearer My God to Thee" a lock went on the back door. Then the smell of kerosene came in through the windows, and then a cruel blast of heat poured across the congregation as the Japanese police chief gave orders to light the church on fire. Men climbed out the windows, only to crash back in, their bodies torn apart with bullets.
The pastor knew it was over. Leading with the power of a man who knew the God he served, he began singing
"Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
and did my Savior die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for such a worm as eye?"
Moments before the roof collapsed, they sang the last verse. And perished.
The hatred between the Koreans and Japanese still burns long after the embers of the burnt church had gone out. The Koreans have not been able to forgive the Japanese for such atrocities, and the church hasn't been excluded. No fellowships as possible between believers of the two nations. A monument was placed on the spot where the church once stood—a grim reminded to the nation of the terror inflicted by the Japanese.
In 1971 a group of Japanese pastors were touring the sight, when they came upon the monument. They were overcome with grief at their nation's guilt, and returned to Japan determined to right a wrong. They raised ten million yen and built a beautiful white church near the monument, and held a service to commemorate the new friendship between the nations. But the hatred in the Koreans still smoldered—until a hymn began, and the hatred started to melt. The Japanese began to turn to their Korean spiritual relatives and beg them to forgive. First one, then another faced their enemy, until both sides were walking to each other, clinging to each other and weeping tears of repentance and joy, while the final
hymn came to a close.—Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway (Portland: Multnomah, 1987),pp 56-63.
How to accept an apology:
Don't gloat or leave the other person embarrassed when you accept a sincere apology. To minimize the awkwardness frequently associated with apologies, try these suggestions:
Smile, be friendly and extend your hand.
Consider one of the following comments: "I accept and appreciate your apology." "I accept your apology, but I want you to know that I contributed to the problem and apologize for doing so." "Thank you. As I recall, I've goofed quite a few times myself."—Walter St. John, Personnel Journal (Costa Mesa CA).
An old Saxon king led his troops against a wild rebellion. The battle was quick and decisive, and the king's army was victorious. Then the king, who was a Christian sent out
this message to all the realm. "The king is in his army tent with his torch burning outside. As long as the torch burns, every man in the rebellion may have pardon by coming to the king and asking forgiveness. When the torch burns out, it will be too late."