During Memorial Day weekend, among the moving stories of men and women in service, CBS Sunday Morning interviewed 95-year old WWII veteran, Louis Zamperini. His story told in the best-seller, Unbroken, is now well-known; his Olympic track career, his WWII service in the Pacific, 47 harrowing days afloat in a raft in the Pacific, his capture by the Japanese forces, and his time in the prison camp called Execution Island.
This part of his biography was familiar to me, but I didn’t know the rest of the story. After surviving two years of constant torture in the camp, he came home to a hero’s welcome, married his sweetheart, and picked up his life. But Louis Zamperini realized he couldn't really move on. Battling nightmares and alcohol, as a last resort, he went with his wife to a Billy Graham crusade.
The message Billy Graham preached that evening was on the power of forgiveness. Zamperini decided that night that the only way for him to live his own life was to forgive his captors. He went back to Japan, sat down with the prison guards, offering his forgiveness to them face to face.
Can you imagine the type of courage and humility it took for Zamperini to go back to that prison? Extending forgiveness in such extreme situations is not easy and it’s not typical, but it does heal and is from God.
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.
—Matthew 18:22, CEB
The interview ended with the question, Do Americans forgive enough? I’ll pose that question to you, Do Americans forgive enough? What do you find most difficult about offering forgiveness?
Read more on this topic in my brand-new book, Forgiveness.