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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Learning to Forgive

Jacob De Shazer

Learning to Forgive

 To live above with those we love

O yes that will be glory…

 To live below with those we know

O that’s a different story!

 It’s true it will be glory to live in heaven.  That’s what the Bible says.  In heaven there will be no fighting, fussing, gossiping, or hating!  Everyone will love everyone and live in loving community!  Scripture says that when we die “We will be changed” (1Corinthians 15:52)    changed by God so that we will fit into that loving community. 

Even though we will be changed when we die, the Lord asks us to allow Him to start changing us now.  Often we don’t want to be changed and hold on to our fighting and fussing and gossip and hate.  But God is calling us to do our part.  He’s calling us to “live below with those we know” and love them.  That’s the hard part!

Our pastor preached a sermon last Sunday about learning to forgive. I wanted to hear it since there is a person I am having trouble forgiving.  He began by saying that forgiveness is the process of letting go of an old reality and opening up the possibility of a new reality.  Here we go again – off with the old and on with the new.

In Ephesians 4:25-32 we are told to “put off” lying, stealing, saying corrupt words, bitterness, anger, clamor, and malice. And in Romans 13:14 we are told to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ.  I think this verse is saying that we are to accept His moral standards, and depend on His strength to love and forgive others.

Our pastor continued by saying that he had a formula for forgiving and we could remember it by the word R-E-A-C-H. 

R- Stands for recall.  We are to recall the hurt.  Remember what happened that caused us to
      be angry – to need to forgive.

E- Means to empathize.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  See things      
     from their viewpoint. Feel their pain and understand their fears.  Perhaps they
     had a difficult childhood. Could they be under the influence of drugs? We don’t
     have to agree with them to respect them as persons..

A- Stands for altruistic.  The act of forgiveness is a gift.  Give the altruistic gift of
     forgiving. Give this gift to God, to the other person and give this gift to yourself
      as well. Your heart will be lighter and your health better if you aren’t carrying
      around the heavy burdens of resentment.

C- Commit before God your vow to forgive.  Tell others that you    
      have made a decision to forgive.  Act kindly to the one you have forgiven.

H-  Hold on to your act of forgiveness.  You may want to forgive but then you begin
       slipping back into your old patterns of resentment. Forgiveness is hard work. It   
       may take time. Ask God to give you the strength to forgive. And keep relying on


When I think of a Christian who learned to forgive others I think of a man named Jacob De Shazer.  Jacob was a young American airman in 1941 when the United States first got involved in World War 2. When he first heard the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor he was so angry that he volunteered to join a special secret unit, the “Doolittle Raiders” and be one of the first to bomb the cities of Japan. 

In early 1942 Jacob, along with the other pilots in the raid, flew low over Nagoya, Japan carrying out a surprise bombing attack which shocked and terrified the Japanese people. But later that night he was forced to parachute into enemy territory when his plane ran out of fuel. He was injured in his fall and along with the rest of his crew, he was captured the next day by the Japanese.

 For 40 long months Jacob De Shazer was held as a prisoner in a Japanese P.O.W. camp where he was forced to live in filth and stench and was tortured day and night. For 34 of those 40 months he was locked away in solitary confinement. Nearly every day he received a severe beating and he became so malnourished that he looked like a skeleton. Several men in his crew were executed by a firing squad while he was forced to watch. He barely hung onto life while many of the prisoners around him died slowly of starvation.

During his captivity Jacob persuaded one of his Japanese guards to loan him a copy of the Bible.  Although he was only allowed to keep the Bible for three weeks, its message changed his life and he became a devout Christian. Most of the men in prison with Jacob hated their Japanese captors because they were being treated so badly.  But Jacob felt that the Lord was telling him to love the Japanese people and to pray for them.


The war came to an end on August 20, 1945 and the victorious American soldiers parachuted into the prison camp to free the prisoners. Overjoyed, Jacob and the other prisoners were finally released. Upon his return to the United States, he was awarded the Purple Heart and several other medals for his part in the “Doolittle Raid.” 

But Jacob De Shazer believed that God wanted him to go back to Japan. He entered a Christian college and began studying to become a missionary.  In 1948 he returned to the same city he had bombed, but this time he went there to serve the city as a missionary.  He and his wife Florence spent the next thirty years of their lives building a Christian church and serving the people of Nagoya, Japan. They had five children while they were there.

While he was in Japan as a missionary, Jacob De Shazer met Captain MitsuoFuchida, the Japanese pilot who had led the main attack on Pearl Harbor and the two men became close friends. The Japanese captain could not understand how Jacob could forgive the Japanese since he had been treated so harshly in prison.  And Captain Fuchida had also heard that the Japanese soldiers who had spent time in American prison camps had been treated very well. 

None of this made any sense to Fuchida since he believed that it was “the responsibility” of an offended party to carry out revenge in order to restore honor.  Captain Fushida found himself being drawn to this strange message of Christianity!  This message of forgiveness! How could anyone treat an enemy with love and forgiveness? Why would anyone not stand up for their “honor” against an offending party? He must find out!

 But Joseph De Shazer loved his former Japanese “enemy” and this greatly influenced the captain. Finally Captain Fuchida became a Christian in 1950.  And when he became a Christian he discovered that Jesus Christ was his “honor” and his reputation and his strength.  Fuchida didn’t have to protect himself by acts of revenge any more since God was his protection.  His world was turned upside down. 

Our worlds can be turned upside down too when we learn to forgive.  When we give our reputations to God and love the enemies who smudged our honor. When we stop living into the old story where we stay angry because they aren’t treating us right, and we write a whole new story where we give our resentments to God and forgive. It’s our choice whether we stand up for our “honor” or whether we let go and let God.  It’s our choice whether we keep our enemies (and ourselves) bound up with our hate or whether we loosen and free up our enemy (and ourselves) with forgiveness.

Colossians 3:17 reads: “And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  The Bible is telling us that everything we do – our words and our actions- should be done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So when we hold a grudge against a friend, can we hold that grudge in the name of our Lord Jesus?  When we are resentful against that person who didn’t treat us well, can we be resentful in the name of our Lord Jesus?  And when we criticize our enemies, can we criticize them in the name of our Lord Jesus?  I don’t think we can.  Then we know what we have to do!   


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