In Michael Christopher’s dramatic play, The Black Angel, he portrays a former German Nazi general whose name is Engel. The jury at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial sentences him to thirty years in prison. After serving his time, Engel attempts a new beginning for him and his wife by constructing a cabin in the mountains outside a small village in France. With each new step to recreate his life, he feels his past with its horrendous guilt is behind him forever.
But there is a certain French journalist named Maurio who has not forgotten. His family had been massacred in a village that Engel’s armies had overrun. For thirty years he planned revenge. So Maurio enters Engel’s village and ignites hatred and fear in the minds of the town’s radicals. On that night they conspire to kill Engel and his wife, and burn down their cabin. But there are some unanswered questions to about Engel. Like an inquisitive journalist, Maurio needs to seek the truth.
The afternoon before the night of vengeance, Maurio arrives at Engel’s cabin. Throughout their discussion, he engages in an interrogation of Engel and is able to get inside the soul of Engel. The heart of Maurio experiences a change. Revenge is now sour instead of sweet. Maurio says to the former Nazi general, “They are going to come for you tonight. They are going to kill you. Come with me. Only I can get you out of here alive.” The general waits before he responds, “I will go with you on one condition.” “What’s the condition?” “That you forgive me.” “No, no, no! Save you, I will, forgive you, I cannot never.” That night the angry mob came and burned the cabin to the ground and shot Engel and his wife.”
Maurio could not forgive Engel because he had to rely solely on own inner kindness to grant a pardon. He did not possess the capacity to release his former enemy from the guilt of his dreadful past. You and I cannot give away what we do not possess ourselves. If you have never experienced forgiveness for your dark deeds, how could you ever understand what it takes to release and forgive another?
When God in His unending mercy forgives our sins, His compassion creates in us humility and healing. It is amazing that the Most Holy God can forgive years of our sins that have ruined our relationship with Him. Therefore, who are we to refuse forgiveness to someone who comes to us with a need to start over? Are we more holy and righteous than God?
Forgiveness sounds great. But it will take more kindheartedness than we can gather from within ourselves to forgive another person’s wrongdoings. It calls for the forgiveness God has given to us so we can forgive others.
Story adapted by Louis Lapides.
Louis Lapides is senior pastor of Beth Ariel Fellowship, an evangelical congregation located in Sherman Oaks, Ca. He enjoys researching and sharing inspirational stories in his weekly sermons that apply to life’s issues.
Used with permission. This article originally seen at FaithMD.