Forgiveness stories -- Corrie Ten Boom

A very dramatic forgiveness story from Corrie Ten Boom's book The Hiding Place. She was a Dutch woman who was arrested by the Nazis during World War II for hiding Jews. She and her sister were in a concentration camp together, her sister died and then she was released. Two years after the war she is touring Germany speaking on how God forgives. One day she meets one of her guards from the concentration camp.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.  “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said.  “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”
His hand was thrust out to shake mine.  And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more?  Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not.  I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer.  Jesus, I cannot forgive him.  Give me Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
I appreciate her conclusion:
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. 

Forgiveness stories -- Robert E. Lee

One of my personal heroes of the Civil War is Robert E. Lee. Not because of what he did during the war, but for what he did afterwards. After surrendering to Grant, he wondered what to do with the rest of his life, and actively discouraged people from attempting to continue the struggle for southern independence as guerrillas in the wilderness. A former governor of Virginia was angry with his son when his son took the oath of loyalty to the United States, but when the son replied that General Lee recommended it, the father withdrew his objection.

Lee was offered the job of president of  Washington college (currently named Washington  and Lee University) in Virginia. After Ulysses Grant was elected President, one of the students made some public remarks insulting Grant. Lee summoned the student to his office and said if he didn't withdraw his comments about the President of the United States, "either you or I will leave this university."  I can easily imagine a different speech. "You think you have a problem with Ulysses Grant? I had to surrender to him!"

Even during the war Lee showed signs of a forgiving spirit. At the end of the battle of Gettysburg, a wounded Union soldier saw Lee riding nearby, and shouted (to taunt Lee) "Long live the Union!" Lee got off his horse, went to the man and wished him a full recovery from his wounds. The man wrote that the compassion in Lee's eyes made quite an impression on him.

Perhaps the most dramatic story of Lee's forgiving spirit is a story we aren't quite sure really happened, or if it happened, how to interpret it. The story is that in 1865, between the time of his surrender to Grant and his taking the job at Washington College, he was in church one Sunday. The congregation was shocked when a black man came forward to take communion at the end of the service. Blacks were expected to take communion in the balcony, not at the front altar. The minister hesitated, Lee went forward, and the congregation were relieved, thinking he'd put this black in his place. But instead Lee knelt beside the black man, and the minister was obliged to continue serving communion, accepting the black man's presence at the main altar.
This story is it is missing from the four volume biography of Lee written by Douglas Southall Freeman, a famous Virginian historian. It is also missing from Robert E. Lee Jr's memoir of his father's life. The oldest source for it was written in the early 1900's, 40 years after it happened. In that version, Lee's action wasn't interpreted as welcoming the black man to the front altar, it was depicted as a superior white gentleman ignoring and shunning the black man who didn't know his place.

Forgiveness stories

I have a warm spot in my heart for stories of people who forgave others. Here are three that impress me.

Peggy Covell
In the 1930s an American missionary family working in Japan decided to move to the Philippines because Japan felt dangerous for westerners. Their daughter Peggy moved back to the US for college, then World War II broke out and Japan invaded the Philippines. The Covells withdrew into the interior but the Japanese found them almost two years later, and executed them as suspected American spies. Peggy heard the news and struggled with bitterness, but realized her mom and dad in their last hours probably prayed to forgive their executioners. How could she do any less?

She volunteered at a prison camp for Japanese prisoners, befriended the prisoners and did many kindnesses for them. When they asked why she was kind to them, she told how her parents had been killed and she wanted to show love, not seek revenge.

Jacob DeShazer
Jacob DeShazer was in the US Army Air Corps and volunteered for the Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942. His plane crash landed in Japan and he was captured. His anger against the Japanese grew during his time in prison, until he was given a Bible, read it, and gave his life to Christ. He promised God he'd come back to Japan as a missionary after the war if he survived. In 1949 he was back in Japan distributing tracts about how he'd learned to forgive during the war.

Mitsuo Fuchida
The Japanese naval pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor lived through the war, then wondered what to do with the rest of his life. A friend of his had been prisoner in the US and known Peggy Covell, and in 1948 he saw DeShazer's pamphlet about forgiving his captors. He began to read the Bible, and saw Jesus' words "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they do" as the inspiration that had moved both Covell and DeShazer. He became a Christian, served as an evangelist, and became good friends with DeShazer.

Read more:
Peggy Covell:
Jacob DeShazer:
Mitsuo Fuchida:

Parable of the foolish farmer

Matthew 13:3-8, Mark 4:4-8, Luke 8:4-9
Why waste seed on the path, on the shallow soil, on the weed choked soil? But God does. He doesn't worry about running out of seed, he wants to maximize the harvest. 

I think the real point is what kind of soil are we? Do we receive the Word and let it grow in our hearts?