What do you see when you see a homeless person sleeping in a cardboard box in a city park?
What do you see when you look at a co-worker who has been saying untrue things about you in office gossip?
What do you see when your boss at work tells you “no raise this year” because Human Resources has decided you’ve topped out in your pay grade?
What do you see when you come face to face with human evil – a child murderer or molester, someone who has fired a gun into a house and killed a 9-year-old girl doing her school homework, a man who walks up to two television journalists doing a story and opens fire, an Islamic State member who swings a sword and beheads a Westerner, or a Christian, or a gay man, or a woman who works with refugees?
In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells what happens when she and her sister Betsie, as long with numerous other women prisoners, are ordered one day to gather their belongings and be prepared to evacuate. They are transported, first by truck and then by train, to a prison work camp called Vught.
It is there that, by chance, Corrie learns the name of the Dutch man who betrayed their family to the Nazis.
The man whose action led to months of imprisonment.
The man responsible for her father dying only 10 days after his arrest.
The man whose betrayals led to the arrest and deaths of even more people than the ten Booms knew.
Corrie hears his name, and she sees anger and hate. “Fires of flame seemed to leap around that name in my heart,” she writes. “I thought of Father’s final hours, alone in a hospital corridor. Of the underground work so abruptly halted. And I knew that if Jan Vogel stood in front of me now, I could kill him.”
In her situation, any of us would have loved to have our hands around Jan Vogel’s neck.
Corrie lets her anger stew. It consumes her. She can’t pray. She tastes only bile and bitterness.
Finally, she asks her sister Betsie why she can handle this information so calmly and quietly, and doesn’t she feel anything about this man. Betsie, who had suffered everything Corrie had suffered, says this: “Oh, yes, Corrie! Terribly! I’ve felt for him ever since I knew—and pray for him whenever his name comes into my mind. How he must be suffering!”
Corrie ponders that response in silence. And then realizes what Betsie was telling her – that she, Corrie, was as guilty as Jan Vogel, “for I had murdered him with my heart and with my tongue.”
Corrie had looked at Jan Vogel and seen an evil, murderous villain. And he was. But he was also a lost soul, a man for whose sins Jesus had also died.
Rather than judge, perhaps we should follow Betsie ten Boom’s example and pray.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Hiding Place. To see more posts on this chapter, “Vught,” please visit Sarah at Living Between theLines.
Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.