The other day, I watched a documentary called The Power of Forgiveness. One of the segments focused on Eli Wiesel, one of the last living survivors of the Holocaust. He has written many books on his experiences in Auschwitz, the most notorious concentration camp in Germany during the war. He lost his mother, sister, and father, and suffered great loss, as did millions of other Jewish people.
In 2000, he addressed the leaders of Germany at a symposium, talking about the suffering of the Jews during that time.
Mr. Wiesel concluded by urging Parliament to pass a resolution formally requesting, in the name of Germany, the forgiveness of the Jewish people for the crimes of Hitler. ”Do it publicly,” he said. ”Ask the Jewish people to forgive Germany for what the Third Reich had done in Germany’s name. Do it, and the significance of this day will acquire a higher level. Do it, for we desperately want to have hope for this new century.”
The president of Germany delivered an emotional speech to the Jewish government in Israel just two weeks later, begging the forgiveness of the Jewish people for his generation’s horrible treatment of the Jews. He also said he was making a humble tribute to the thousands of Jews murdered by his nation, and was grieved that there were no graves for the multitude of Jews who suffered humiliation, starvation, and torturous deaths.
It was beautiful.
Very seldom do those who suffer at the hands of another get a sincere apology, and I would guess it is like healing balm on a burning, painful wound.
But what about those who get no apology? Or those for whom an apology just isn’t enough? Do we have a right to hold onto bitterness, rage, and sorrow because no one said “I’m sorry”?
Lately, I’ve been heartbroken over how we treat the idea of forgiveness. We are told by nearly everyone that we forgive others for OURSELVES…that we will be healthier and happier by forgiving. And even though all of that probably will happen as a result of forgiving another, I really don’t think that should ever be our motivation for doing so! The Bible talks quite a bit about forgiveness, but in all of the times it is mentioned in the New Testament, the ONLY reason for forgiving is because Christ has forgiven US. End of story.
So, I’ve been asking myself lately: When did we start to need any other reason to forgive than because He asks us to?!! It seems we’ll do something for another if it has some kind of benefit to us. But if it doesn’t….then we don’t.
In my life, I have sought to forgive people for self-serving reasons, too. And I have to say…it never worked. God will never grant us something that only comes from Him if our motives are anything other than trying to please Him.
Consider the following verse:
If we sincerely want to please God, then forgiveness will be something we desire, too. And He is faithful to grant that to us.
Eli Wiesel got his apology. But he has since said that he cannot wholeheartedly forgive. What a sad ending to a sad story. If he could forgive, imagine what that could do in the lives of so many, including his own!
Imagine what YOUR forgiveness could do. If you do it for God…not for yourself.