I’m halfway through Unbroken
, a book about an amazing man, Louie Zamperini. His plane was shot over the Pacific in 1943. He floated 47 days, battling sharks and hunger, only to land in a POW camp where he was terrorized by a camp commander nicknamed “the Bird.”
For over a year the Bird singled Louie out for beatings and starvation. He hated Louie because he’d been a famous track star. As you read about the exquisite torture Louie had to endure, you begin to hate the Bird yourself. He was despicable – so one-dimensionally evil that you find yourself rooting for his demise.
After the war, the Bird continues to terrorize Louie, haunting his dreams. Part of me (the part that likes to watch Clint Eastwood revenge films) wants to see him get on a plane and go back to Japan and hunt him down. The earth needs to be cleansed of such evil.
But here’s the thing – I know that even if Louie finds and kills the Bird, he won’t be free of him. I don’t know how it ends, but I know from personal experience and from years of following Jesus that the only way out for Louie is to find some piece of his heart that can forgive his torturer.
It makes no sense to give grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it. It’s irrational to move in the direction of the person bringing you pain. But holding a grudge is irrational too, it’s like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. A rape victim
said, “I tried hating him. It didn’t help me and it didn’t hurt him, so what was the point?” The genius of God’s counter-intuitive kingdom is that there is a way out. As the rape victim said, “Forgiving him allowed me to move on.”
Have you ever encountered pure evil? Have you ever struggled to forgive?* Winning that struggle may be the epic fight of your life. It may require more courage than you think you have. But it’s possible. It’s the one way that you can win.