At the height of World War II, Japanese forces attacked
Singapore and captured British Officer Eric Lomax. Over the next few months, he
was forced to work on the deadly Burma-Siam railway. Every night Lomax and his
fellow prisoners planned their escape: creating maps, building a radio and
storing food. But before they could make their attempt, they were discovered.
As punishment, the Japanese soldiers brutally tortured
Lomax. At each session, a translator was present – his name: Nagase Takashi.
For Lomax, this man became the voice of the enemy. And in his heart, he swore
that one day, he would make him pay.
Fifty years later, Lomax got his chance.
Nagase had published a book recounting the atrocities he had
committed during the war. It was the first step in a journey that would
ultimately lead Lomax back to Japan, where he would come face-to-face with his
As the two met, Nagase bowed. He had tears streaming down
his face and was only able to speak these words: “I’m sorry.” Over the next few
days, the men talked and listened to one another. And before Lomax returned
home, he gave Nagase a letter. This is what it said: “Although I can’t forget the ill treatment – taking into account your
change of heart, your apologies, the work you are doing, please accept my total
Isn’t that a powerful concept? Total forgiveness? It’s one
of the things that we all need. But it’s also one of the most difficult virtues
to foster. It seems to go against our fallen nature. We hold onto our wounds –
hoping that by doing this, somehow justice will be done. But clinging to these
emotions isn’t how we’re called to live as Christians.
Paul wrote this in Ephesians: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along
with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving
each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
While it can be difficult to let go of our hurts and pains,
we know that in Christ, we have a sympathetic high priest who has suffered
alongside us. He knows each of our wounds and is willing to take them from us –
if we only let him. And he not only takes them but also undoes them, so that
they are made to contribute to our eternal benefit—by sharing in Christ’s own
crucifixion and resurrection. Although Eric Lomax might not have known it, when
he forgave Nagase Takashi, he was actively participating in Christ’s divine
mission, extending the healing grace of our Creator God to the world.