NEW BOOKLET: Forgiving—A Story of Forgiveness and How and Why We Should Forgive by Maria Kneas and Egerton Ryerson Young is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Forgiving—A Story of Forgiveness and How and Why We Should Forgive, click here.
A STORY OF FORGIVENESS
By EGERTON RYERSON YOUNG
The following incident occurred years ago on the great plains of the Canadian Northwest, long before the waves of Anglo-Saxon civilization began to surge over those glorious fertile prairies which for so many generations were hid from the gaze of the outside busy world.
Among the Indian tribes that roamed over those vast regions, the Crees in those days were perhaps the most numerous and powerful. The terrible small-pox and other epidemic diseases had not entered in among them, mowing them down by thousands, leaving them, as they are to-day, but a shadow or a wreck of their former glory.
The most powerful chief among this tribe was called Mask-e-pe-toon, or “Crooked Arm,” from the fact that one of his arms had been so hacked and wounded in his hand-to-hand conflicts with his neighbors, the Blackfeet Indians, that, in healing, the muscles had so contracted and stiffened that the arm remained crooked.
Mask-e-pe-toon was a warlike chief, and his delight was in all the excitements of Indian conflicts, in cunning ambuscades, and, when successful, in the practice of unheard-of barbarities upon the captives of other tribes who fell into his hands.
Very picturesque was the dress of many of these warriors of the plains. The quills of the eagle, which with them is considered the royal bird, formed the head-dress. Their shield was generally made of the tough leather of the neck of an old buffalo bull. The clothing, which was most elaborately ornamented and fringed, was made of the skins of the deer or moose, most beautifully tanned and prepared by the Indian women. Some of their horses were really magnificent animals and marvelously trained for Indian warfare.
The Rev. Mr. Rundle, of the English Wesleyan Missionary Society, was the first missionary who at great personal risk visited the Cree tribes and faithfully declared the message of salvation to them. The Rev. James Evans, also, in some of his marvelous trips through that land of “magnificent distances,” visited Mask-e-pe-toon and faithfully preached to him and his people. Some accepted the truth and became Christians, but Mask-e-pe-toon was too fond of war to receive the message of peace.
A number of years later the Rev. George McDougall went out, in prosecution of his missionary work, to those mighty plains. That he might be more successful in his efforts to bring them to Christ, Mr. McDougall frequently left his own home, and for months together lived with these red men as they wandered over vast stretches of country, hunting the buffalo and other game.
Rev. McDougall’s custom was always to have religious service every evening where they camped for the night. These camp-fire services are quite an institution in connection with work among the Indians of the different tribes. Their habits are so migratory that it is necessary that the missionary should follow them up in their various haunts where they have gone hunting the various kinds of game and gather them together in larger or smaller numbers as is possible and there preach to them. At these camp-fire services, hymns were sung, prayers were offered, and God’s Word was read and expounded.
One evening, Rev. McDougall read as his lesson the story of the trial and death of the Lord Jesus. He dwelt particularly upon the prayer of the Savior for his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and, well aware of the Indian spirit of revenge that was so prominent in the hearts of his hearers, he dwelt strongly upon it, and plainly told them that if they really expected forgiveness, they must have the same mind that was in Christ, and forgive their enemies. Mask-e-pe-toon was observed to be deeply moved under the sermon, but nothing was said to him that evening.
The next day, as the great company, consisting of many hundreds, was riding along over the beautiful prairies, an Indian chief rode quickly to the side of Rev. McDougall, and in quiet but excited tones asked him to fall back in the rear, as they did not wish him, the missionary, to witness the torture and killing of a man who was in that little band of Indians that was approaching them, although still so far away as to be almost indistinguishable to the eyes of a white man.
It seems that months before this, Chief Mask-e-pe-toon had sent his son across a mountain range or pass to bring from a sheltered valley a herd of horses which had there wintered. Very sublime and magnificent is some of the Rocky Mountain scenery. Travelers who have visited the Alps and other picturesque mountainous regions declare that some of the views in the Canadian “Rockies” are not excelled in any other part of the world. Tourists in ever-increasing numbers are availing themselves of the opportunities presented by the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway through and across those sublime mountains to there see these magnificent fir-clad, snow-capped objects of the Creator’s handiwork.
Among the foothills of these mountains are many beautiful valleys, where the grass and herbage abound all the year, and it was in one of them that Mask-e-pe-toon had kept his reserved horses. He selected one of his warriors as his son’s comrade to aid him in the work. From what afterward was found out, it seems that the man, having a chance to sell the horses, his cupidity was excited, and so he murdered the chief’s son, disposed of the horses, and hiding for the time his booty returned to the tribe with the plausible story that when they were coming across one of the dangerous passes in the mountains the young man lost his foothold and fell over one of the awful precipices, and was dashed to pieces, and that he alone was unable to manage the herd of horses, so they had scattered on the plains.
Knowing nothing at the time to the contrary, Mask-e-pe-toon and his people were obliged to accept this story, improbable as it seemed. However, the truth came out after a while, for there had been, unknown to the murderer, witnesses of the tragedy. And now, for the first time since the truth had been revealed, the father was approaching the band in which was the murderer of his son.
That the missionary might not see the dire vengeance that would be wreaked upon the culprit was the reason why this subordinate chief had requested Rev. McDougall to slacken his pace and fall into the rear of the crowd. But instead of doing so, he quickened the speed of his horse and rode up to a position a little in the rear of the mighty chief, who, splendidly mounted, was leading the van of his warriors. On they galloped over the beautiful green sward, the missionary’s heart uplifted in prayer that the wrath of man might be turned to the praise of God.
When the two bands approached within a few hundred yards of each other, the eagle eye of the old warrior chief detected the murderer, and, drawing his tomahawk from his belt, he rode up until he was face to face with the man who had done him the greatest injury that was possible to inflict upon him. Rev. McDougall, who still kept near enough to hear and see all that transpired, says that Mask-e-pe-toon, with a voice tremulous with suppressed feeling, and yet with an admirable command over himself, looking the man in the face who had nearly broken his heart, thus sternly addressed him:
“You have murdered my boy, and you deserve to die. I picked you out as his trusted companion and gave you the post of honor as his comrade, and you have betrayed my trust and cruelly killed my only son. You have done me and the tribe the greatest injury possible for a man to do, for you have broken my heart, and you have destroyed him who was to have succeeded me when I am not among the living. You deserve to die, and but for what I heard from the missionary last night at the campfire before this I would have buried this tomahawk in your brains. The missionary told us that if we expected the Great Spirit to forgive us we must forgive our enemies, even those who have done us the greatest wrong. You have been my worst enemy, and you deserve to die.”
Then, in a voice tremulous with deepest emotion, he added, “As I hope the Great Spirit will forgive me, I forgive you.” Then, speaking up sternly, he added, “But go immediately from among my people, and let me never see your face again.” Then hastily pulling up his war-bonnet over his head, his forced calmness gave way, and, quivering with the suppressed feelings that tore his heart, he bowed down over his horse’s neck and gave way to an agony of tears.
Mask-e-pe-toon lived for years afterward the life of a devoted, consistent Christian. All his old warlike habits were given up, and, mastering the syllabic characters in which the Cree Bible is printed, the Word of God became his solace and his joy. He spent the remainder of his days in doing good. Very earnest and thrilling were the addresses which he gave to his own people as he urged them to give up all their old sinful ways and become followers of that Savior who had so grandly saved him. Many listened to his words, and, like him, gave up their old warlike habits and settled down to quiet, peaceful lives.
Anxious to benefit his old enemies, the Blackfeet, and to tell to them the story of the Savior’s love, he fearlessly and unarmed went among them with his Bible in his hand. A blood-thirsty chief of that tribe saw him coming, and, remembering some of their fierce conflicts of other days, and perhaps having lost by Mask-e-pe-toon’s prowess some of his own relations in those conflicts, he seized his gun, and in defiance of all rules of humanity, he coolly shot the converted Christian chieftain down.
Thus, sadly fell Mask-e-pe-toon, a wondrous trophy of the Cross, and one whose conversion did a vast amount of good, showing the power of the Gospel to change the hardest heart and to enable the warlike savage to conquer so thoroughly the besetting sin of the Indian character, even under the most extreme provocation, where very few indeed could have found fault if the price of blood had been exacted and the murderer summarily executed.1
How and Why We Should Forgive
By Maria Kneas
Anger can be dangerous. God knows we can’t help getting angry sometimes. However, He warns us that if we let that anger stay with us and take root in us, then we will give the devil an opportunity to harm us. The Bible warns us:
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27)
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “place” means a condition, a position, or an opportunity. I have a friend whose husband often beat her severely. One day he deliberately threw her down a flight of stairs and broke her back. She had to leave him in order to protect her life and the lives of her children. But she also had to forgive him.
Forgiving him did not mean allowing him to keep on abusing her. It meant not staying angry and not carrying a grudge. The Bible says:
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18)
It also meant having the attitude of Stephen in the Book of Acts. While he was being stoned to death, he prayed for his persecutors, saying:
Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7:60)
God will deal with the people who hurt us. He is both just and loving, and only He really knows their hearts. If we try to avenge it, then it will damage us spiritually and emotionally. It may also harm us physically because long-term anger can cause health problems. And the Bible tells us that God will avenge us when that is necessary:
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? (Luke 18:7)
When God tells us to forgive, He is not telling us to be a doormat. Rather, He is saying, “Don’t put your hands on the hot stove. Let Me take care of it.”
Matthew 18:23-35 is a parable that Jesus taught about a servant who owed his master so much money he could not possibly repay him. His master was compassionate, and he canceled the servant’s debt. Then that servant found a fellow servant who owed him a little money and had him thrown into debtor’s prison because he was unable to pay him. When the master found out about it, he ordered that the servant who owed him money be turned over to the torturers until he paid the entire debt. Jesus warned:
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:35)
What does being turned over to the torturers mean? And how does that apply to Christians? I really don’t know. But whatever it is, I sure don’t want to experience it. Forgiving people is a small price to pay to avoid being tormented.
If you know people who are eaten up with bitterness, you have probably seen some of that torment. Everything reminds them of the ones they are angry at. Their whole lives are focused on their grievances. They have stress-related health problems. Their anger spills over onto their families and causes relationship problems. In their anger, they do things that emotionally damage other people, which may tempt those people to become bitter. No wonder the Bible warns us:
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
It is vital that we forgive, not primarily for the sake of the other person but for our own sake. We don’t do it because they deserve to be forgiven. They don’t deserve it. But neither do we. And God forgave us in spite of that. Therefore, we should be willing to do the same thing for other people—out of love for God and gratitude for His forgiveness.
Lack of forgiveness can result in long-term anger. And that can have serious consequences. The apostle Paul called it a “work of the flesh” and warned us:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance [contentions], emulations [jealousies], wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added)
Note that “wrath” and “strife” are listed right along with sins like murder and adultery. These fruits of unforgiveness can have serious consequences in our lives and in the lives of people who are close to us.
Paul contrasts them with the “fruit of the Spirit,” which should characterize our lives as Christians. He said:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)
If we want to live biblically and “walk in the Spirit,” then God will give us the grace and the strength to do it. This is a process that takes time, patience, and perseverance. We can spend our lives learning to do it more and more consistently. And then we will enjoy the fruit of our labor for all eternity.
To forgive can be difficult. However, when something is clearly necessary, then we do it, no matter how difficult it is. People who have cancer endure painful and difficult treatments in order to get rid of it. Well, bitterness is a kind of emotional and spiritual cancer. No matter how difficult it is, we have to do whatever it takes to get rid of bitterness.
I have learned that one way to forgive someone when it is very difficult to do is to pray for that person in earnestness. It is very hard to remain angry at someone and feel unforgiving toward them when you are praying to the Lord on their behalf. And remember, part of what forgiveness means is giving the hurt and the pain from the trespass against us over to the Lord, allowing Him to carry a burden He has instructed us not to carry.
I once had to forgive someone who had hurt me deeply and betrayed my trust so badly that when I thought about this person, I became physically ill. For over two years, I kept telling God, “You told me to forgive. I want to obey You, but I can’t do it. Please change my heart and make me able to forgive.”
Then one day, I unexpectedly ran into that person. And it was all right. There was no trauma, no stress. In fact, I saw the pain and confusion in this person, and I prayed. God, in His kind mercy, enabled me to love the person who had hurt me so deeply. But I had to persist in continuing to ask God to do it. And I had to cooperate with God’s work in my life.
The person who had hurt me so badly did not realize the degree of damage I had endured. This is often the case. As Jesus said:
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
Booker T. Washington was born a slave in 1856. He experienced a lot of injustice, but did he allow it to make him bitter? No. He said, “I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him.”2
When people do things that rightly anger us, we need to forgive the people, give the situation to God, let God take care of it, and get on with our lives. God is more than able to take care of the people and situations that caused us problems.
In addition, when we are wronged, we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The apostle Paul said:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. (Philippians 3:10)
People who go through similar kinds of suffering develop bonds of love and understanding that cannot be built any other way. Being a widow enables me to comfort and encourage other people who have been bereaved. I know what they are going through because I’ve lived through it myself. The apostle Paul said:
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Nobody had to forgive people more than Jesus did. When He ministered God’s love and compassion, the religious leaders of his day said he was of the devil (Matthew 12:24), and they hated him so much, they plotted to kill him (John 5:18, 7:1).
When we have been wronged and need to forgive people, we are sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. It gives us a greater appreciation of what Jesus went through for us. We know Him better, and we love Him more. It’s worth the price. What it costs us to forgive is a small thing compared to the revelation it gives us of Jesus’ love for us.
Anita Dittman was a teenager in Germany during World War II. She was Jewish and also a Christian believer. During Hitler’s reign, she saw many horrors. When she was in a work camp, some of the prisoners had a unique opportunity one Christmas Eve to hold a small service. Anita recalls something one of her young friends said to her that snowy night in a Nazi concentration camp:
The birth of Jesus must have been like this . . . He was poor and persecuted, and He was misunderstood and rejected, yet He always forgave. We have to forgive too, Anita, even the Nazis.3
This kind of forgiveness cannot be done without the Lord’s help. But He promises to help us do what is right.
If you want to see forgiveness in action in modern times, read the Ravensbruck Prayer.
In April 1945, Russian soldiers liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck, Germany. They found the following prayer written on a piece of paper that was wrapped around a stone:
The Ravensbruck Prayer
O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will but also those of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us. Remember the fruits we bear, thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, loyalty, humility, courage, generosity, and the greatness of heart that has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
Forgiving Their Captors
The following is an excerpt from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. This story took place in the Netherlands in 1568:
[T]hree persons were apprehended in Antwerp, named Scoblant, Hues, and Coomans. During their confinement, they behaved with great fortitude and cheerfulness, confessing that the hand of God appeared in what had befallen them and bowing down before the throne of his providence. In an epistle to some worthy Protestants, they expressed themselves in the following words:
“Since it is the will of the Almighty that we should suffer for His name and be persecuted for the sake of His gospel, we patiently submit and are joyful upon the occasion. We are not comfortless in confinement, for we have faith; we fear not affliction, for we have hope; and we forgive our enemies, for we have charity. Be not under apprehensions for us, we are happy in confinement through the promises of God, glory in our bonds, and exult in being thought worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. We desire not to be released, but to be blessed with fortitude; we ask not liberty, but the power of perseverance; and wish for no change in our condition, but that which places a crown of martyrdom upon our heads.4
Later, each of these men died, but they had forgiven their captors.
LEAVING THE PAST BEHIND
Following Jesus, my Lord and my Savior
Leaving the past behind
I press on to the mark of God’s high calling
Leaving the past behind
Forgiving, forgetting, and giving to Jesus
Leaving the past behind
Replacing old voices with the truth of the Bible
Leaving the past behind
1. This story is from Egerton Ryerson Young’s book, Stories from Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2011), pp. 109-115.
2. Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915 (Source unknown; Public Domain)
3. Anita Dittman, Trapped in Hitler’s Hell (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 3rd edition), p. 134.
4. John Foxe, Foxes Book of Martyrs (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2010), pp. 187-188.
About the authors
Egerton Ryerson Young was a young missionary in the late 1800s to the Cree people of Manitoba, Canada. His book, Stories From Indian Wigwams and Northern Campfires, chronicles his missionary work with the Cree people.
Maria Kneas is the author of several Lighthouse Trails books and booklets. She was widowed at the age of 35, having watched her young husband die in her arms from a massive heart attack. Her two books, Strength for Tough Times and How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution both reflect God’s love, wisdom, and faithfulness.
You may find materials by these authors and other Lighthouse Trails authors at www.lighthousetrails.com, or you may e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us at P.O. Box 908, Eureka, MT 59917 and request a catalog.