Forgiving in Unforgiving Circumstances

While traveling to and from the AFLC conference in Wisconsin, I had a lot of time to read in the car.  One of the books I finished was For The Glory: Erick Liddell’s Journey From Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr by Duncan Hamilton.

Because of the movie, Chariots of Fire, many people, like me, know that Eric Liddell was an Olympic champion who refused to run on Sunday because of his faith.  Maybe they even remember that after the Olympics he became a missionary to China.  However, there is a “rest of the story” that is equally inspiring:  Eric died in a prisoner of war camp because he was not evacuated from China before the Japanese overran the area where he was serving (the rest of his family had been sent back to Canada).

Here is an excerpt from book’s prologue:

In the beginning, the camp was filthy and unsanitary, the pathways strewn with debris and the living quarters squalid.  ..There were verbal squabbles, sometimes flaring into physical fights, over the meager portions at mealtimes and also the question of who was in front of whom in the line to receive them.  There were disagreements, also frequently violent, over privacy and personal habits and hygiene as well as perceived idleness, selfishness and pilfering.

Liddell stood out as being different.

… his forbearance was remarkable.  No one could recall a single act of envy, pettiness, hubris or self-aggrandizement from him.  He bad mouthed nobody.  He didn’t bicker. …Every night, after studying the Bible, he prayed…He did not discriminate.  He prayed for everyone, even for his Japanese guards.

The verdict of the author:  “His heroism was to be utterly forgiving in the most unforgiving of circumstances.”  I would encourage everyone to read this book about a modern hero of the faith, and learn how forgiveness can change an unforgiving environment.

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