Do Your Kids Know What Forgiveness Is?
Jesus forgave us, so we can forgive others!
Joey & Carla Link
April 24, 2019
Forgiving someone who has wronged you is one of the most difficult things to do in life. Whether it’s a sibling who took your 3 yr. old’s toy, your 7 yr. old whose 9 yr. old sibling purposefully got her in trouble; they are all offenses that are hard to get over and let go of.
Do you know the story of Louis Zamperini? It was made into a very graphic movie in 2018 called “Unbroken”. He was a runnerdestined for greatness in the 1940 Olympic Games when his dream vanished when he was drafted into the armed services during WWII. His B-24 plane he was serving on crashed in the ocean. Everyone on board was killed except for Louis and two others. After 47 days at sea living off of a bird or fish they could catch with their bare hands, they were rescued by an enemy Japanese war ship.
Months of starvation, disease, psychological trauma and torture, unimaginable living conditions, and daily abuse at the hands of brutal prison guards reduced Louis to a shell of the once great athlete he was. The movie shows the ongoing abusive assaults and physical abuse Louis endured. It was hard to watch. He says he stayed sane by dreaming about killing his captors.
As the war ended Louis went back home to California and he got married. He moved into a new prison however, the entrapment of PTSD, that turned him to alcoholism. PTSD wasn’t identified back then much less given a diagnosis or treatment. So those who came back from traumas coped the best they could.
Few people, let alone our kids can fathom living like this without striking back at those who have hurt us. What happened to Louis and how he responded is a great illustration of a normal human response to someone who has hurt us. Parents, if your response to those who hurt you is a “normal” one instead of a “Godly one”, your kids see this and will follow your lead.
Louis went to a Billy Graham crusade 9 years later in Los Angeles, CA where he accepted the free gift of Jesus Christ as his Savior and his nightmares ended. He was cured from alcohol and in his heart he forgave his captors, the biggest change of all.
But that was not enough for Louis. He traveled back to Japan to meet face-to-face with his captors to tell those who physically and mentally abused him that he forgave them and he shared the story of Jesus Christ with them. However, the Captain of the guard unit who was responsible for most of Louis’ abuse would not meet with him. He was filled with guilt and shame that we will talk more about in the next blog. Louis left him a letter that said “…I committed my life to Jesus Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, ‘Forgive your enemies and pray for them and this I have done for you.’”
What an amazing story of victory parents can use to share with their kids on how to forgive those who hurt them because that is what the presence of Jesus Christ can do in their lives. If they don’t learn to do this, they will become victims filled with hate and bitterness filling them with a distrust of people in general.
Louis not only understood, but practiced what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:14-15:
”For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Louis is a great testimony of what Paul said in Ephesians 4:31-32:
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Questions to think through and evaluate with your kids:
- How well do your kids forgive their siblings when they do something against them?
- Is there a difference in how they forgive one sibling over another? Between how they forgive their siblings and their friends?
- Do they really forgive them or do they hold it in account to use against them later? In other words, do they understand that forgiving is wiping the slate clean, never to come back again?
- True forgiveness is seen in how they treat the person that offended them. Are your kids kind to them? Once they say “I forgive you”, there shouldn’t be a reason they aren’t.
All of our children accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior at age 7 yrs. What 7 yr. old understands why Jesus died on the cross? Too many parents think it is a slam dunk; their child asked Jesus into his heart and now he is saved and will go to heaven when he dies and he will learn what else he needs to know at church.
That is NOT the way it works. It is up to you to continue to teach him and show him what salvation is and what living for Jesus looks like in his life. The Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process should be reviewed in your family as your kids grow at least 2x a year. A good Bible story to read with them is Matthew 18:21-35 about the unforgiving servant.
The Rest of the Story:
48 years later in 1998, Louis Zamperini went back to Japan to carry the Olympic torch for the winter Olympic Games. The path he ran took him past the prison he suffered in. For most people this would have sent them back into PTSD, but because he learned to truly forgive he had only memories and love for those who hurt him.
“A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
How will you help your kids learn to forgive others so God can forgive them
and use their lives for his Glory?
Why don’t you watch the movie “Unbroken” and see if your kids are old and mature enough to see it. If so, ask them these questions after it.
- If God allowed this to happen to you, how would you respond?
- Are there people in your life you need to forgive like Louis forgave?
- How much freedom would you experience if you forgave people like Jesus forgave you?
- What should you do if they won’t forgive you?
The stories of Louis Zamperini and that of Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian are sad. To see or watch the story of what they went through to share the story of Jesus with others hurts although they are completely different. The 5 missionaries made a decision to go to a people no one had ever gone to before to tell them about Jesus. Louis Zamperini went through incredible abuse and when he became a Christian, he had the opportunity to proclaim God’s truth to the world. It is good to remember these people because they should inspire us to be willing to spend our lives in a spirit of forgiveness and love.
“I think the hardest thing in life is to forgive. Hate is self-destructive. If you hate somebody, you’re not hurting the person you hate, you’re hurting yourself. It’s a healing, actually, it’s a real healing…forgiveness.” ― Louis Zamperini