Thursday, June 08, 2006

But I Don't Know HOW to Forgive

In 1970 Mitsuo Fuchida the lead bomber for the Japanese at Pearl Harbor wrote this:
"I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ."
What happened? He himself was angry and bitter and lost after the two bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He hated the occupational government of Douglas MacArthur. He got off a train at Tokyo's Shibuya Station and saw an American distributing literature, so he took a pamphlet entitled I Was a Prisoner of Japan.

That pamphlet was the story of Jake DeShazer, who was at Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed, who afterwards volunteered to join Jimmy Doolittle’s squadron that flew the long distance mission retaliating against Tokyo. DeShazer ran out of fuel, so he parachuted into Japanese held territory in China and was captured by Japanese troops. His next 40 months of confinement were a nightmare of brutal mistreatment that lead him to hate his captors. At the end of that period, he was given a copy of the Bible and read it for the first time. He received Christ and his entire outlook changed about the Japanese and his imprisonment. Surviving the war, he was released, but later went to Japan as a missionary.

Based on DeShazer’s testimony, Fuchida purchased a Bible and himself was gloriously converted on April 14, 1950, having read Luke 23:34, and the words of Jesus Christ on the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." The solution to the bitterness in His heart was the same power of Christ that enabled Him to make that prayer to the Father.

Most of us know that Jesus said to forgive "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22). Of course, He wasn’t putting a cap on forgiveness, just saying that we don’t limit the times we forgive. In most cases we know we’re supposed to forgive, but in many of them we don’t know how to. Everybody has their critics, their thorns in the flesh—relatives, family members, co-workers, employers, supervisors, classmates, and church members. These have offended us by something that they have said, not said, or done. Sometimes it’s worse—a mate will physically abuse the other or commit some extreme form of unfaithfulness; it could be a verbally or physically abusive parent; you are gossiped about; someone tells a secret you told in confidence. It hurts. Bad. You try to deal with it, but you become bitter, then even hateful, malicious, or deeply depressed. How can you forgive someone when it seems impossible?

This relates to Mitsuo Fuchido. How do we forgive? How? Like Jesus did. "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Colossians 3:13). So how did He forgive? Five words will help you understand how He forgave. One is suffering. Jesus forgave us by suffering for our sins. When He suffered, He left us an example to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). Christ laid down His life for us, and so should we lay down our lives for others (1 John 3:16). We should remember that since Jesus experienced pain when He forgave, that we too will hurt and suffer for others in order to forgive them.

Another is supplication. Jesus prayed for His enemies. When he prayed "Father, forgive them" in Luke 23, He appealed to God and focused on their weakness—"they know not what they do"—rather than on their wickedness. As the offended, we should try to see the weakness of the one offending, rather than the sinful act against us.

A third is sympathy. Jesus came to destroy the "work" of the devil, not the "workers" of the devil (1 John 3:8). The Lord Jesus sympathized with us in our iniquities (Heb. 4:15). He was more concerned about the sin getting settled than the sinner getting squashed. If we imitate this sympathy of Jesus, it will be easier for us to forgive.

A fourth one is sovereignty. God sovereignly allows our pain (2 Cor. 1:3,4). He has His purpose for us, and the hurt we experience can shape our lives to something more useable for Him (James 1:3; Rom. 8:28, 29). If we can see the offending person as someone that God has brought into our life for good, that will help us to forgive him.

Last is self. Yes, self. Jesus thought not on His own things, but the things of others, and we are to let His mind set be ours (Philip. 2:3-5). The powerful king in Christ’s parable in Matthew 18:21-35 forgave his servant’s unfathomable debt, while that same servant wouldn’t forgive a microscopic one someone owed him. If we are to forgive like Jesus did, we have to stop thinking how important we are. We aren’t. He is vastly greater than us, and yet He chose to think about others first when He took His trip from a heavenly throne to die for our sins.

You’ll have opportunities to forgive and you won’t feel like you can do it. DeShazer or Fuchida couldn’t do it without the Lord, but they did with Him. So can you. You can remember that we are to forgive how Jesus forgave. To help you do that, remember these five words—suffering, supplication, sympathy, sovereignty, and self—and then you’ll know how.


Ruth said...

President Lincoln was asked how he was going to treat the rebellious Southerners when they had finally been defeated and returned to the Union of the United States. The questioner expected that Lincoln would take a dire vengence, but he answered " I will treat them as if they had never been away".

On a different note...
William A. Ward is quoted.."We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive".

The ageless quote..."to err is human to forgive is divine..." seems to be very close to the Golden Rule.
Welcome back, Pastor.

Blessings from the Hill,

Throwback 13 said...

* As a result of Fuchida's personal supplication, he came to the U.S. and founded Sky Pilots, a Christian organization for boys, run by local churches. Its plan included scripture memorization, Bible study, model airplane building, and contact with men who gave guidance and teaching. It was as good as the church that used it, and maybe a bit better because of the excellent plan.
* Somebody I know well memorized his first Scriptures because of the Sky Pilot organization. Even before he wore a black hat.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another excellent post. I learned several things from it. This statement was helpful "We should remember that since Jesus experienced pain when He forgave, that we too will hurt and suffer for others in order to forgive them."
What a powerful truth, what a challenge!

BJ Nordgren
I Jn 5:4-5

Jeff Voegtlin said...

This was a challenging and encouraging post. Thank you.

Bill H. said...

Great post!

Don said...

Hey, Kent, great outline. I think I'll steal it. (You'll forgive me, of course, eh???) [g]

Seriously, the 70x7 lesson is so contrary to our natures and so much in need in our lives. I sat with someone tonight who needs to learn it bigtime. The 'other half' in that home does as well. That lesson would certainly eliminate a lot of need for personal counsel.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anyone can use the outline if they want. And I'm glad it helped whomever.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago I heard an Evangalist say.."I forgive for many reasons. But, mostly for two reasons. One is Jesus commanded that we forgive one another; secondly it makes me love myself more. I have a deep inner peace when forgiveness overcomes animosity. I feel just a little closer to my Lord. Ponder for a moment the consequences of not forgiving. The luxury of forgiving. It's that inner peace that fills your heart when you see that person again; when you lie down to sleep, but mostly when you go to the Lord in prayer.. "Let nothing stand between you and communication with your Savior".
Good one, Pastor.

Cathy McNabb said...

Bitterness is a powerful drug, I know I lived it many years, but learning to forgive the wrong and trust again has been such a blessing. Good post Pastor B.

True forgiveness is something every Christian needs to learn, experience, and do.