DayBreaks for 02/29/12 – Ghost Soldiers
From the DayBreaks Archive, dated 1/16/2002:
I have recently completed one of the most compelling and remarkable books that I’ve ever read. The title of the book is Ghost Soldiers and it was written by Hampton Sides. This amazing book tells the true story of an incredible rescue mission that was launched in the Philippines during WW2. You may have heard about the Bataan death march that took place during World War Two. This was a brutal forced march of American, Philippine and other prisoners of war by the Imperial Japanese army. Hundreds died during this forced march, and those who survived were brutalized, beaten, diseased, starved, tortured and forced to live under the most incredibly demeaning circumstances in prisoner of war camps. This amazing story (I would highly recommend it, but it isn’t for the squeamish) was one I’d never heard before, but one which deserves to be told over and over again – and never forgotten.
This story highlights the most noble side of human nature – and the most degrading. It is hard to believe that humans could rise to such heights of self-sacrifice, honor and integrity – in many cases giving up their lives for fellow-prisoners or for people they’d never met before. I am in total awe of the prisoners and rescuers. At the same time, it also reveals the depths to which human nature can sink when deprived of any knowledge of God.
Sadly, I think that far too often the church reflects both sides of humanity, too. Some of the most noble and honorable acts in human history have taken place in the church because of the love of one Christian to another. Sadly, some of the most inhumane acts have been perpetrated in the church and by the church – supposedly in the name of God.
Matthew 7:3-5 – “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
I know that we are also told to speak the truth in love, and also that we are to restore those taken in by sin: (Gal 6:1-2) “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” While Paul may be warning us about falling into the same sin as the one who is being restored, I don’t think that’s what he had in mind. I think he was warning us about becoming too puffed up, too proud of our own righteousness (which we have none of – our only righteousness is HIS righteousness!) and as a result fall because of our prideful, haughty attitudes.
Sometimes when a brother or sister has been around a long time and has a long track record of sinning, repenting, being restored, then repeating the pattern over again, we become jaded and skeptical of repentance. We start to judge the heart of the person as if we can really see it, we determine if the person really feels sorry for their sin or not, and if they have really repented or not. That’s dangerous ground. Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive someone who sinned against him. Jesus’ response didn’t delve into reading the person’s heart, weighing the risk if the person hadn’t really repented, etc. No, he put it this way in Matthew 18:21-35: “21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Perhaps the most difficult thing here is the last 3 words: “…from your heart…”. What does Jesus mean? With ALL our heart. Without reservations. Without hesitation. The same way God forgives us. Can you imagine, even for a second, that God sits and debates about whether or not to grant you the forgiveness you ask for? (And He already KNOWS if you’ll fall into that sin again!!!)
Perhaps some day we’ll learn to extend even a portion of the grace to others that God has extended to us.
PRAYER: May we extend grace to others as much as we desperately want Your grace to be extended to us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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