It is often said that it is easy to ask God for forgiveness, but difficult to grant it to others. Yes, to many of us, forgiving others is a difficult thing to do. Yet, we pray to our Lord God with fervor. We also display outward forms of godliness, and spirituality. We go to the throne of grace of God praying and pleading for His divine love, mercy, grace, compassion and forgiveness for our sins. While we seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, we are at the same time nurturing bitterness, anger, hatred and vengeance against some people. And to many of us, our anger, hatred, and bitterness against some people extend beyond the grave. This is indeed saddening because while we are seeking forgiveness from our Lord God for our sins, we are withholding our forgiveness to others who have hurt us.
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Let me share with you a story written by Harold Sala, an American Bible teacher appearing in one Christian book published by PMF Publications. Whenever I feel hurt about things that others do to me, I go back to this story. Here goes:
“It was one of those strange coincidences of life which took place near the old River Kwai in Thailand. During World War II, the Japanese occupation army used slave labor to build a Thai-Burmese jungle railway there. Executions, starvation, cruelty, and tropical diseases took the lives of more than 100,000 people – mostly Asians along with Americans, Australians, Dutch, and some 16,000 British soldiers.
“A half-centruy later, fate brought some of the Japanese and the British former soldiers together. A group of Japanese veterans returned to the old River Kwai to pray for forgiveness and to make peace with themselves before they went across the bridge that leads to eternity. That same day, a group of British war vets just happened to visit the same place.
“Both groups scheduled lunch at a nearby café. According to a press dispatch, ‘each group knew that the other was a couple of tables away but made no attempt to recognize the other’s presence.’
“Then Takashi Nagase, a 76-year-old Japanese veteran who has spent decades striving to bring reconciliation and healing to people following the war, requested a reporter to ask the head of the British delegation if they might speak to each other.
“Arthur Lange, 73, the leader of the British party, responded, ‘What the Japanese did was unforgivable. If I came over, I would spit in his face. It is better for his own safety if I don’t.’
“Within minutes the Japanese group quietly left the restaurant. The British, once prisoners of the Japanese, also left the River Kwai. No longer prisoners of the Japanese, nevertheless they were still prisoners, prisoners of their own hatred and bitterness.
“How long should you carry bitterness and anger in your hearts for injustice done to you? How long is enough? Some opportunities present themselves only once. For those who happened to meet at the River Kwai, there is no going back, no second chance. Before death silences the one whom you need to forgive, better learn to say it, to ask for it, to give it.
“When you live with bitterness and anger you become your own worst enemy, imprisoned by emotions more deadly than a sniper’s bullet or a jungle disease. The one who dies with bitterness carries that cancer with him into eternity, but he who forgives finds the forgiveness of our heavenly Father. Remember, some opportunities come only once; don’t miss them.”
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Forgiving others is a divine mandate. The Holy Bible is very clear in its message: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men in their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
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This column continues to give out copies of the Holy Bible for free to those who cannot afford to buy their own copies. If interested, please send your letter-request to Ms. Nelly Favis Villafuerte, 5233 Fahrenheit St., Palanan, Makati City. Kindly mention if it is the Tagalog, English, Cebuano, or Ilocano Bible that is preferred.
Be joyful and forgiving! (Comments may be sent to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected].)