Wednesday, July 12, 2017


In Ernest Gordon’s classic work Miracle on the River Kwai, he tells the story of Scottish soldiers forced by their Japanese captors in World War II to labor on a jungle railroad. Because of the cruelty and torture, the prisoners’ behavior had degenerated to barbarous levels. Then one afternoon something happened.

A shovel was missing. The angry Japanese officer demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else. When nobody budged, the officer threatened to kill them all. Finally one prisoner stepped forward. The officer picked up a shovel and beat the man to death. The horrified survivors picked up his bloody corpse and buried him. Then a second tool check was conducted. This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check.

The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others. The incident had a profound effect. The prisoners began to treat each other as brothers. When the victorious Allies finally swept in, the survivors, just human skeletons, lined up in front of their Japanese captors, and instead of attacking them, insisted, “No more hatred, no more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”

Sacrificial love has transforming power.