He whispered prayers to the Lord--stepping out of the watch repair shop, and closing the door tight behind him. The air was chilled; misty. Children chased each other down the sidewalk, narrowly missing him, and sending the tails of his overcoat chasing after them. A rush of cool air snaked up his back. He shivered, pulling his coat tighter, and smiled after the children. Could he remember what it was like to be that young; to move with such ease and speed? Perhaps if he closed his eyes tight…
He walked on, intent on his business at hand. There was only so much time before his next customer would be in to collect his newly repaired watch. Yet, as he rounded the corner, all thoughts of customers and pocket watches were gone. A crowd--a mob, actually--drew his attention. He stopped and stared.
There was a great amount of energized jeering. Casper couldn’t see what they were yelling at, but the hatred in their voice made the skin on the back of his neck bristle. He took a few steps closer, whispering prayers.
“Smerige Jood! Smerige Jood!”
Casper paused, something within him riling against the words being thrown into the cold air. Filthy Jew, they were saying. He hurried as fast as he could, pushing himself through the thick wall of human flesh. “Rat,” they called, “Vermin!” Arms were swinging. Legs were kicking. Something hard connected with Casper’s shin. He gasped, but did not stop. When he reached the center, he found himself nearly on his knees before a young Jewish man.
The crowd stilled; their shouts dying on their lips. They were stunned to suddenly find an old Dutch man hunkered over their prey. Casper turned to the young man. He was bleeding and broken; hunched on his knees, covering his face with his hands, and gasping for breath.
“What are you doing, old man?” Someone ordered, reaching out and snatching him up by his shoulder. Casper turned somber eyes to the man—finding him young, and filled with hatred he could never have imagined .
“That’s Mr. Ten Boom!” Another explained, “The watch maker. You can’t hurt him!”
Slowly, the crowd drew back, but they didn’t walk away. The man holding Casper by the shoulder let him go. Casper straightened his over coat, and turned back to the Jew. With tears in his eyes, he knelt down beside him. The man trembled like a leaf. Blood oozed from his temple and down his beard. Casper took a hankie from breast pocket, dabbing at the blood.
“What is he doing?” Someone in the back of the crowd asked.
“Helping the smerige Jood,” came the disgusted answer.
“Hush,” another said, with that Casper thought sounded like shame.
Casper leaned forward, whispering something in the Jew’s ear that the crowd could not hear. “They don’t know what they are doing,” came his soft words. “You must forgive them, child.” Then he took the man’s trembling hands in his. Dark, fearful eyes, came to Casper’s who pressed the slightest of smiles to his lips. “It is okay. They will not hurt you now. Come with me.”
Together, they stood. Casper wrapped an arm protectively around the wounded man's shoulders. He bit back an amused grin. Imagine, an old man like me, he thought, saving the life of this strapping young man. What a sight I must be!
The crowd stepped back, staring. In that moment, Casper swept his eyes across those standing in the crowd. One by one, they looked away—ashamed.
It is never easy to do what we know is right in our own hearts. Love comes easy for those that are in our lives—our families and friends. But love does not come easy for those that are strangers. It comes even harder for those that our society dubs as the outcast…the enemies.
In the dawn of World War II, a great enemy was making an impact in Europe. Adolf Hitler had a hatred in his heart for an entire race of people, and for people that were different—outcasts. This hatred grew, sown into the hearts of Europe’s youth, until it morphed into a monster that seemed unstoppable. Who could have imagined that countries would unite to exterminate fellow human beings? But it did happen. We all know the story. We’ve seen the pictures of emaciated bodes, empty gas chambers, smoke stacks, and piles of shoes that the Holocaust leaves us with. We weep as we turn the pages of Diary of Anne Frank. And still, we wonder, “How did this happen?”
It seems impossible. It seems like a nightmare. It seems like it could never happen again—that WE would never allow it to happen again. I hope not. But hatred still grows in men's hearts. Hatred will never die. Not on this earth, anyway. Not for a very long time.
What people don’t know, is the unease in which Corrie Ten Boom (one of Casper’s daughters) stepped into her role as a protector of the Jews. Her family opened their house to Jewish families during the war. They built a secret room where the Jews could hide; saving them from an inevitable arrest and a life ended in a work camp. Corrie struggled with her faith through these years, wrestling with her own fears of death. She took all of cues from her family—Casper, her sister (Betsie), and brother Willem.
When the Ten Boom’s were discovered by the Nazi Secret Police and arrested, they were sent to different work camps. Corrie and Betsie remained together, but sadly, Betsie’s health declined. Through it all, Betsie remained optimistic. She smuggled a small bible into the camp, staying up at night reading scripture to the ladies in her barracks. When Corrie found a way to have medicine stolen for her sister, Betsie gave it to those that she deemed worse off than she was. As she was dying, Betsie told her sister that she must forgive the enemy. Corrie did not understand. She was shattered, completely at a loss when her sister was gone…
"There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still,” Betsie had said. Her words played over and over in Corrie’s mind, haunting her…until they began to reach her heart.
Miraculously, Corrie Ten Boom was released from prison. Within weeks after her release, all the other women her age were executed.
Corrie Ten Boom went on to share her families’ testimony. She recorded their story in the book The Hiding Place. She traveled the world and spoke about forgiveness, saying things like, "Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
In the end, Corrie came face-to-face with her past enemies. After she had been teaching in Germany in 1947, she was approached by one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards. She was reluctant to forgive him, but prayed that she would be able to. She wrote that,
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then.
She wrote in The Hiding Place, “Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself."
God commanded us in Scripture to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It is the greatest commandment. Too often we forget that he taught us to love our enemies, as well. Enemies come in all kinds of forms. Sometimes, our enemies are in our family, live next door, or sit in a pew near us at church. Whatever anger you hold for another human being within your heart, will grow to hatred. Be careful, my friend; for hatred will become like death. Hatred will spread and grow into a monster. Hatred will keep you out of the will of God.
Love. Learn to love. Learn to pick up the beaten and battered that the world deems as outcasts. Learn to be bold and courageous in the face of hatred. Learn to forgive your enemies, both great and small. Don’t be afraid for whatever fate your love and forgiveness will lead you to. Wherever you go, the loving arms of a great Savior will be there to lift you up...even if you are battered and bruised.
Or watch the shorter version:
Author’s note: The story of Casper Ten Boom and the battered Jewish man is true, though told will creativity in this blog post. I’m a writer. ☺ To read more of the events of the Ten Boom’s read the book. ;)