Yesterday in Sacrament meeting was a rare experience to hear from two soon-to-be sister missionaries. I could tell that the nerves of serving and the butterflies and excitement were present in their minds. Nonetheless, I knew that these sisters loved the Lord and were prepared to consecrate the next year and half to Him. I know that it was no coincidence that both of these sisters were assigned to talk about forgiveness, not only for their sakes, but a personal message to me from God.
Both sisters did well, and the Spirit of God was flooding that heavily packed chapel. But it was the second sister who sparked a different way of thinking about forgiveness and greater introspection. This sister spoke about a book she had read in high school about a holocaust survivor. The woman who had gone through intense, bitter, and fierce hardship ultimately survived the horrors of that dark time of her life. She writes that one of the deepest trials and sufferings she had to endure was the murder of her only sister. She recounts the SS soldiers who tortured and killed not only her sister, but thousands of other innocent people.
Decades after, she had found reconciliation in Christianity and thought that she was starting to move on. Her beliefs and personal messages consisted of forgiveness, the mercy and grace of God, and faith. Upon one Sunday service, she had given an incredible sermon on the very topic that consumed her life: mercy. After her sermon she had noticed a gentleman that was new to the congregation and immediately recognized the man. He had been one of the soldiers standing guard at the gas bath that killed her sister. In the book, she recounts the battle she had within herself. The battle of knowing and believing in mercy and forgiveness and not being able/not wanting to forgive the man that was involved in the atrocities of the Holocaust. Her battle stemmed from deep within herself and is one that we all can understand at a personal level. This man was so relieved and happy that he had heard her message and was seeking the alleviation of his deeds from long ago. She wasn’t sure if her heart was ready to forgive and put into action the principles she professed to live by. She writes that she was about to give up when she remembered Christ, who had suffered and endured the worst of the worst and still forgave. She could feel His love and knew that she could forgive and continue with her life free from the shackles of blame and hurt.
I reflected on this story and continued to meditate more on Christ and the grace that He freely and lovingly gives. I pondered on the events of that Atoning Thursday and the day after when He’d be smitten, spit on, and crucified. He never retaliated and turned the other cheek. His ability to love and forgive are paramount. What He went through was not only to glorify and obey His Father, but because He loved us perfectly. Because of Him we can be cleansed from sin, have the strength and grace to forgive and be forgiven, and have advocate who knows how to endure all things. I came to realize that His Atonement is not restricted to anyone. It is available to everyone. And who am I to deny the peace that is a blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ? How prideful and audacious am I to not forgive another?
These talks and the Spirit of God have been answers to my deepest concerns and prayers. It has been scary and frightening, to say the least, to be honest with myself and asking and acting what God says I need to change in my life. I hope that we all have the courage to defy the consensus of being hard hearted and prideful. May we follow Him who descended below all things. Truly the greatest of us all.