Tuesday, May 13, 2014


This past week I watched 'The Railway Man', a movie, based on a true story, depicting the traumatic experience and aftermath of a British soldier in a Japanese POW camp during World War II. The highlight of the movie was how the British prisoner - Eric Lomax - endured severe brutality at the hands of Japanese interrogators and still found courage, years after the war, to forgive one of his tormentors.

This made me think of an incident in the gospel when Peter asked Jesus, "How many times should we forgive those who sin against us?" Forgiving someone, especially one who has caused us harm that is not easy to forget, is very hard. Yet forgiveness is one of Christ's most radical messages to humanity, one that will effectively transform our world if embraced by all.

Consider how Christ was beaten, scourged and crucified to death by the people of his day. A doctor describes the crucifixion below:

The patibulum was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it. Nails, about 7 inches long and with a diameter of 1 cm ( roughly 3/8 of an inch) were driven in the wrists. The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures (or broken bones) occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body. In ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand. (Davis) Standing at the crucifixion sites would be upright posts, called stipes, standing about 7 feet high.(Edwards) In the center of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served a support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes. The feet were then nailed to the stipes. To allow for this, the knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. The titulus was hung above the victim's head. (Complete article here)

Even though Christ suffered some of the most severest agonies every devised by man, he still uttered these unforgettable words on the cross:

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34 NIV)

Peter asked, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”
Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22 MSG)

Forgiveness is essential in our quest to be Christ-like. Henri Nouwen said: Forgiveness is the well at the center of God’s Village. It is the antidote to the world's bacterial miseries. It sets apart God's kingdom from man's kingdom. It is the one thing that defined Christ's message to an unforgiving creation.