Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsThursday 27 Feb 2020Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes
The world was shocked back in September 2006 when 65-year-old Italian Catholic nun Sister Leonella Sgorbati was shot in the back and killed by two gunmen as she crossed the road on her way to a a paediatric hospital in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu.
What a terrible tragedy. She had spent many years serving the poor and children in Somalia. She had joined the Catholic religious order 42 years before her senseless death, and gave her life for her work. In her tribute one of the sisters who worked with her said this:
There are some people you will never forget in life, and Sister Leonella was one of them…Her sense of integrity, enthusiasm, courage and desire left a definite imprint on me. I admire her even more for forgiving the ones who killed her.
Her bodyguard also was gunned down.
I forgive, I forgive, she said as she laid on the street dying.
And here is the main thing I want to say. As she lay on the street dying, she used her final breaths to forgive the men responsible for her death. I forgive, I forgive, she gasped in her native Italian just before she died.
What an astonishing demonstration of forgiveness. This caught the media’s attention as an amazing testimony of a woman’s faith in God and ability, in her dying moments, to forgive her murderers. An astonishing demonstration of forgiveness!
Another Story Of Forgiveness
So how do we deal with something like this? Back in 1999 I read about Deweese Eunick, a mother in the US who had to bear the news her six-year-old daughter Tiffany was killed by a 12-year-old boy who was wrestling with her. He was sentenced for life in prison for this murder. The mother said to reporters on TV news:
It’s more that he’s a human being, you know? And in spite of him murdering my daughter and taking my daughter’s life, the thing is back in the olden days, you did an eye for an eye, right? Jesus came, Jesus died for all our sins. When we do things wrong, we can go to him, we can ask for forgiveness, right? So who am I not to forgive him for what he did to my daughter and did to my family—to my life?
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
Forgiveness is to release, to let go, relinquish, get rid of something before it destroys you. When you forgive a person, this does not mean you are immediately healed. This does not mean you are going to be friends with that person. When we forgive a person, this does not mean that we trust them. We are not avoiding pain, we are opening the door to healing.
Forgiveness is all about finding God’s love to forgive.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape from the Nazis during World War II. Throughout her early life she helped hide people from the ugliness that is humanity at its worst. She was arrested and put into one concentration camp after another, one of which being a place named Ravensbruck. Her sister Betsy died in the camp from ill-treatment.
In 1947, after she had been teaching a class in Germany, one of the cruellest guards of the Ravensbruck camp came up to her and asked her for forgiveness. She was reluctant to forgive him at first, but she prayed that she might gain the strength to. She wrote, “For a long moment we grasped each others hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
Without forgiveness we tend to stack events of the past one on top of another.
Forgiveness is an act of faith.
By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.
This prayer was found in the clothing of a dead child at Ravensbruck concentration camp:
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us; instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.