Corrie Ten Boom & the message of unending forgiveness

By Kristen Johnson

I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do. (Corrie Ten Boom)

Every re-reading of the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom, is like reading a new and wonderful book. I am always awestruck by the book’s simple and beautiful message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. Each time I read it I am struck by something new, and this years New Year’s reading opened my eyes to several new messages:

Forgiveness: Although Corrie, her sister Betsie, and several other members of her family were beaten, imprisoned, and tortured by Nazi soldiers, the message of forgiveness was always present. Never once did any of them fight back, give any perpetrator what “they deserve” or even speak negatively about any of them. Every single time I reread of Betsie’s first real beating by a Nazi soldier, I am stunned and humbled by her response to it. Instead of fighting back, her response is “I feel so sorry for him.” Her father’s response was identical. No matter what they did to him, his response was always to love and pray for his tormentors. Clearly God was at work – Corrie admitted repeatedly that finding love for someone who is torturing and abusing you is only possible with God’s help.

Selflessness: Corrie quickly discovered how easy it was to hide food away for herself and her very ill sister, or to hog a blanket, and to hide vitamins from her fellow concentration camp inmates. But, God showed her the sin of selfishness and insisted that she share in any way she could. She had to share a blanket that she herself so desperately needed, or make way for someone else to use an air hole on a crowded, unsanitary transportation cattle car, etc. How easy it is for us to complain when we are “always” the one stuck doing the dishes, or the laundry, or having to do all the errands and so on. Guess what? That’s selfishness and it’s a sin. Rather than complaining about the things we “have” to do, we should be celebrating having the opportunity to take the burden from someone else.

Service: Although the Ten Booms were themselves poor, they never knew it because they were so busy serving the “less fortunate.” Anyone in need was always welcome in their home and they housed 11 orphans over the years before the war! Corrie volunteered her time to host a special Church for the mentally disabled, and her mother and sisters were constantly feeding anyone in the neighborhood who had a need. After the war ended, Corrie opened a home in Holland with a benefactor that specifically ministered to people wounded from their experiences in prisons and concentration camps. She opened her home to mentally disabled people who had been literally hidden for years during the war because they were deemed “unfit” by the Nazi regime. She even went so far as to open her home to former traitors who were now completely reviled and hated by their fellow Hollanders – those that took the side of the Nazis during the occupation. Corrie’s message, and that of her family, was consistently that of serving absolutely everyone in need and that included serving those who persecuted them.

As always, I finish this book with a sense of peace and purpose. God always reminds me that refusing to forgive is a sin, selfishness is a sin, and we are all called to his higher purpose of showing God’s love by following His commandment to serve absolutely everyone.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NRSV): Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Serve all with love.

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