2194) Not Bitter Anymore (part one of two)

From Tramp for the Lord, © 1974, by Corrie ten Boom and Jamie Buckingham, p. 50-53

     After the war, Germany was filled with wounds and scars– not all of them on the surface.  In one tiny cubicle in the camp at Darmstadt, I found a German lawyer.  He was sitting miserably in a wheelchair, the stumps of his legs poking out from under a lap blanket.  He was filled with bitterness, hatred, and self-pity.  He told me he had once been an active member of his Lutheran church and as a boy had rung the church bell in the village where he lived.  Now the horrible injustice of war had taken his legs, and he was bitter against God and man.  I felt attracted to him since some of his experiences were similar to mine.  One morning I made a special trip to his room to tell him something of my life.

     I found him sitting in his wheelchair, staring at a blank wall.  His face was gray, his eyes lifeless.  I never was one for introductions so I got right to the point of my visit.  “The only way to get rid of bitterness is to surrender it,” I said.

     He turned slowly and looked at me.  “What do you know about bitterness?” he asked.  “You still have your legs.”

     “Let me tell you a story,” I said.  “In Holland, during the war, a man came to me begging me to help him liberate his wife.  I felt compassion for him and gave him all my money.  I also convinced my friends to do the same.  But the man was a quisling, a traitor.  The only reason he came to me was to trap me so he could have me arrested.  Not only did he betray me, but he betrayed my entire family and friends.  We were all sent to prison where three members of my family died.  You ask me about bitterness and hatred.  You only hate circumstances, but I hated a man.  Sitting in the prison in my homeland, waiting to be transferred to a concentration camp in Germany, hatred and bitterness filled my heart.  I wanted that man to die.  I know what it is like to hate.  That is why I can understand you.”

     The lawyer turned his chair to face me.  He was listening.  “So, you have hated also.  What do you suggest I do about my hate?”

     “What I have to say is of no importance.  Let me tell you what the Son of God had to say.  ‘For if you forgive men their trespasses, our Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’  (See Matthew 6:14-15)  If we forgive other people, our hearts are made fit to receive forgiveness.”

     The lawyer shifted uneasily in his wheelchair.  I could see the muscles in his neck stand out as he pushed with his hands to change position.  “When we repent,” I continued, “God forgives us and cleanses us.  That is what I did, believing that if I confessed my sin God would be faithful and just to cleanse my sin and forgive me from all unrighteousness.”

     The lawyer looked at me and shook his head.  “That is easy to say, but my hatred is too deep to have it washed away.”

     “No deeper than mine,” I said.  “Yet when I confessed it, not only did Jesus take it away, He filled me with love– even the ability to love my enemy.”

     “You mean you actually loved the man who betrayed you and who was responsible for the death of your family?”

     I nodded.  “After the war, when that man was sentenced to death, I corresponded with him and God used me to show him the way of salvation before he was executed.”

     The lawyer shook his head.  “What a miracle!  What a miracle!  You mean Jesus can do that to a person?  I shall have to give this much thought.”  Since I have learned not to push a person beyond where God has left him, I bade my friend good-by and returned to my room.  (…continued)


Matthew 6:14-15  —  (Jesus said), “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Luke 6:36-37  —  (Jesus said), “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Luke 23:34a  —  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…”

I John 1:8-9  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies:  Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  
Book of Common Prayer