Today we somberly remember the countless lives lost to the evil of abortion. Sometimes it seems that nothing in the world makes us shake with anger more than the thought of millions of helpless children being literally torn to pieces in or outside the womb. And it is right that we should be angry! It should make us cry out in prayer for justice to visit our land again, for the innocent and the helpless to be rescued from this system of death. I hate abortion, as much as I could hate anything. So it is I as much as anyone else who needs to step back and ask the question: could I forgive an abortionist? Could I forgive a murderer?
Long ago, a woman named Corrie Ten Boom struggled with the very same question. She and her sister Betsie were held in Ravensbruck, a concentration camp, because they had sheltered Jews in their Holland home in 1944. Her sister Betsie had died because of the harsh treatment in the camp, but Corrie was released just a few days after Christmas. After the war, she traveled the world speaking about her experiences and sharing the Gospel. It was in 1947 that her message of forgiveness was put to the test:
“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’
“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin
“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’
“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.
“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’
“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’”
(Read full account here)
Today, I find myself in a similar situation. Am I guilty of thanking Christ for salvation, but all too eager to see others damned to hell? Do I really think I’m that much better than they?
The horror of sin
The hardest thing for me to swallow is how sinful I still am, even after being brought to salvation through Christ. This is the time when I must “preach to myself,” applying the Gospel to my own heart.
I must remember how evil even one sin of mine is. I’ve turned the wine back into water, led my healthy brothers astray, tickled the ears of those who starved for truth, played the adulterer against my Christ. I did not fling the stars into their places, I did not set the boundaries for the sea, I did not construct the foundations of the earth, yet my heart is swollen to bursting with pride! God is infinite in all His attributes. My sin, apart from Christ, has offended this God, and He is infinitely offended. He has offered up His own Son to save my soul, and how many countless times have I scorned this gift in favor of the world? If God is incalculably good, then any sin against Him is incalculably evil.
I cannot say that I’m better than an abortionist. Remember the Pharisee! Eyes lifted up to heaven, clean and respectable, yet he went home and was not justified before God. No, I am worse than the abortionist. There is Christ, nailed to the cross, and it is my sin that put Him there! Of all murderers, I am the worst. As Charles Wesley expressed in his hymn: “Died He for me who caused His pain/For me who Him to death pursued?”
I must remember what it took to rescue me from sin. You can measure the depth of a pit by the ladder it takes to climb out. It took the death of Immortal God to rescue me, so my pit was that deep! I wasn’t sick in my sin, in need of a little medicine and rest. No, I was dead, and it took the death of Christ to bring me to life (Eph. 2:1).
The depths of the sea
If the evil of sin is unbelievable, God’s forgiveness is much more so!
“Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12)
In the face of this incredible reality, being forgiven of God, how can we withhold it from others, no matter their sin? God forgave us, and none can condemn us. If God forgives them, how can we condemn them?
Pray for the salvation of abortionists
I know it seems like this is an easy thing for me to say, because after all, someone will say, I’ve never been personally affected by abortion. And I hope I never am! It’s true that I’m ignorant of the pain and horrors that come from first-hand experience. But I do know that my sins against God are evil beyond description. I do know, from experience, the forgiveness of God in Christ. I do not ask those who have experienced abortion in any way to “get over it” and forgive, but I do ask them to pray for that grace.
So today, as we remember with sadness and indignation the slaughter of innocent children in our nation and around the world, let us not forget who God is: the great Forgiver of sins.