‘Your Jewish Friend’
By DANNY MINTON
I opened the Houston Post in July of 1993, looking for the obituary of my father-in-law. While browsing the page, I discovered a small personal obituary in the bottom corner of the page. The note contained few words, and there were no pictures. I don’t remember the exact words, but the message remains with me even today. Here is a paraphrase of what it said, although names and exact details evade my memory.
“Gunter Muller was my neighbor for thirty years. He passed away this week. He and his family were our close friends. During World War II, Gunter flew for the German Luftwaffe and afterward made his home as my neighbor in Houston. Gunter was my close friend, and I’ll miss him.” The signature at the end of the small tribute proclaimed, “Your Jewish Friend.”
As I read the notice, my mind began to envision these two men, probably well along in years. One had fought for a country responsible for one of the most horrific crimes in the 20th Century. He flew for a man who orchestrated the murder of millions of Jewish, Polish, and undesirables in each country his homeland overtook.
On the other hand, here wrote a man who very likely had relatives who died in the Holocaust of the war. He likely had people he knew who suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Yet, here in this small article, he laid any hatred or ill feelings aside. He had made friends with a man who at one time lived as his enemy. However, somewhere along their lives, the two opposites became close friends setting behind the sorrow and hate of the past.
Unlike the man who wrote these words, many of us live lives refusing to let go of the ill feelings of past events. Someone wrongs us, and we go out of our way not to talk to or be around them. We find it difficult to forgive someone who did something that hurt our feelings or caused us pain in some way. We live in a world void of their existence, even though we called them a friend at one time. Sometimes they try to seek forgiveness, faced only with our refusal to accept their efforts. We refuse to let go of what eats at our hearts, minds, and soul.
We all have a past filled with having done or said something that hurt someone else. We have been on the side seeking forgiveness only to have lost a friend to ill feelings. We live a life void of someone who once meant something dear to us. The two remain separated, refusing to come together and forget the wrongs of the past.
How do we move forward? What does it take to bring us back together? The answer may come from a statement I heard someone repeat several years ago. “I only see you as who you are today.” Think about it. I mean, give it some thought in light of who you have become over the current times. Each of us can change from who we were in the past. We live with regrets and often try to correct the wrongs we have done. We should learn to quit holding on to people’s past wrongs and take time to see who they are today. Learning to forgive and move forward even when someone fails to ask for forgiveness is part of becoming Christlike. Holding grudges and feelings of hate or anger only serve to hurt us and our relationship with others as well as with our God and savior. If someone has changed and received forgiveness from the Father, we should not find ourselves less forgiving.
Look at people as they are today. Seek the good in those who may have wronged you in the past. In His “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus said, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:12,14,15 (NIV2011)
Learn to forgive and forget. Again, look at people as who they are today, forgetting any wrongs they may have done to you in the past. Take a lesson from “Your Jewish Friend.” His name is Jesus.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ