ERIC LIDDELL A MAN WHO COULD FORGIVE
Eric lined up for the 400 meters Olympic final. A masseur stepped up to him
handing him a piece of paper, on it were written the simple words. “Those
who honour me I will honour.” 1 Samuel.2.30.
Little did he know just how great an honour the Lord was going to give
him in the years ahead. Centuries earlier
Moses had refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to
suffer with the children of God rather
than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Eric stood for a principle,
he had refused to run on “The Lord’s Day,” and would not give way to expediency.
He was running in
It’s not often that God can boast about
his servants. Eric Liddell was one
of those rare men whom God could boast about. In the first chapter of Job
we have a picture of God boasting to Satan. “Have you
considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him.”
Satan replied; “Does Job fear God for nothing? Stretch forth your hand and strike everything
he has and he will surely curse you to your face.” In 1941 Eric
was faced with just such test of his faith. Eric found that the clouds of war surrounded him. In order to stay faithful to
God’s work he said farewell to his wife and two little daughters. Sailing
Time moved on and when most people
thought that Eric’s life was just another missionary life that had taken its
place in missionary history. When 35 years after his death Gods time for
honouring His servant had arrived. God put it in the mind of Sir David Puttman to make a really good film.
Again, it was God who lead Puttman
to read the l924 Olympic Review and inspired him to make the film “Chariots
of Fire.” Unknown to David Puttman. God’s providential hand was moving him
to choose the best actors and inspired him to produce an Oscar winning film
about his humble servant Eric Liddell. “This is what
shall be done to the man whom the King
delights to honour,” (Esther 6.verse 6.) not only in
In 1980 I
was back in
Today, where once there was a prison camp now
in a little park, there prominently stands
a seven foot high slab of red granite, brought from the Isle of Mull
In December 1941 the bombing of
I was just finishing my schooling at
the drudgery of our confinement. Eric had arranged some sports events between
During the following years it was my privilege to help Eric in his work on the recreation committee. Fixing the obsolete sports equipment. The revolting smell of melting down the thin sticks of Chinese black glue made from horse hoofs is hard to forget. He was always so enthusiastic and never thought of it as a sacrifice to tear up his sheets to bind up old bats and hockey sticks etc. Even some of his trophies were sold on the black market to help the suffering. As the years passed, we were all suffering in one way or another, and the tremendous work load he took on himself began to take its toll.
In another Bible Study on the Sermon on the Mount he confronted us with the words from Mathew 5 verse 43. “Love your enemy.” Was this a real possibility, could we really love the Japanese guards. Was this just an ideal that we should aim at. Or was it a practical reality. The discussion that followed tended towards the idea that this was the ideal. For Mathew 5 ends with the words “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Eric beamed as he said, “I also thought that was the case, but then I noticed the next words. “Pray for them that persecute you.” He told how he had started to pray for the Japanese. Eric said, “We spend a lot of time praying for all our loved ones and the people we like but Jesus told us to pray for the people we don’t like. He challenged us to start praying for the Japanese. When you hate you are self centred. When you pray you are God centred, The opposite to Love(Agape) is indifference and self-centred thinking. Its hard to hate the people God loves, praying changes your attitude.
after this I listened to some lectures
About three weeks before Eric began to succumb to the brain tumour he came up to me with his pair of dilapidated running shoes. They were all patched and sewn up with string. In a shy and almost offhand manner, he said. “Steve, I see your shoes are worn out and it is now midwinter. Perhaps you will be able to get a few weeks of wear out of these.” Then with a knowing nod , he pressed them into my hand. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that those shoes had meant something to him and that he had gone to a lot of work to patch them up for me. A few weeks later and he was gone to his eternal reward . Only his Heavenly Father knew how faithfully he ran his short 43 years. The running shoes did wear out. At the end of the war everything was in rags and tatters and were infested by the nests of a myriad bedbugs that tormented our sleep. In hindsight, I might have kept them. Even the Chinese who raked through our refuse would find them useless. But I gladly gave them up for a pair of US Army boots. However I received something far better than Eric’s running shoes. I have his missionary baton of forgiveness and the torch of the gospel, which with the Sermon on the Mount that has been shared with thousands of Japanese.
The funeral service was an unforgettable occasion. I was one of his pall
bearers, and wore the running shoes he had given me. Only about a dozen of us
under guard went to the grave. The
Beatitudes were read and we lowered the coffin into the ground. We were all
shivering with the cold as we walked back, with the freezing N.W. wind from
war ended, so suddenly, with the Atomic Bomb. And in a few weeks I was over in
little ship that took me to
number of years of language study I was baffled to find that the Japanese had deliberately
made it a taboo to talk about the war. If I mentioned the war I noticed peoples
faces froze. Soldiers who had returned from the war often were too ashamed to
even talk to their families. They had failed their ancestors, and broken their
army vows to their Emperor, that they would never surrender. Occasionally when they were drunk they would
open up and talk to me about the war. In the following years every school child seemed to make a School trip to
One year the city I was living in decided to have a big Exhibition for Peace. I was approached by a VIP to ask if I would make a speech at the exhibition on world peace. In preparation for this I had to go to this man’s house. I arrived at his front door and rang the bell. Then I realised a rowdy shouting match was going on at the back of the house. So I rang the bell longer and louder. Still the angry voices continued. In embarrassment, I opened the door and shouted “Excuse me is anybody home.” Then the wife came running. “Oh its you teacher.” Showing me into their living room, she said, “I will quickly call my husband.” Soon he came in and for next hour we discussed international problems and world peace.” All the time I kept thinking here is a man so zealous about world peace and he doesn’t even have peace in his own home. Finally, I picked up courage to point it out to him in a rather indirect way. He went very silent for a time. Finally saying, “We must all do better”.
The war time Emperor died and to our astonishment people around us began asking
us about the war. Teachers, students, church people. Even the TV began to show
war documentaries. It seemed they had fought for the Emperor but now the spell
was broken. By 1995 we had retired and were living in
told me that he had had to take his graduating students on a trip to
there has been a lot written about the war by Japanese war veterans, Some of
the books expose the war crimes but most
people never read that kind of book. School textbooks not published by the Government are quite
realistic in their accounts of the war, but then the teachers skim over these
because the curriculum is already overloaded.
Unfortunately forgiveness is something that has to be mutual to bring about harmony and peace. Reconciliation is dependant on forgiveness and forgiveness is dependant on an act of the human will. This means that forgiveness is a very personal matter. National pride and patriotism are a great hindrance to international reconciliation. China today is unwittingly sowing seeds of hate and anger in the hearts of their youth and children by showing them graphic documentaries of the Japanese atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army over 60 years ago. Jesus prayed. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I’m afraid this problem is going to fester on. Only an understanding of God’s love and forgiveness can put an end to such tidal waves of malicious evil.
This paper was given at a gathering
sponsored by Keiko Holme’s Agape Reconciliation Movement, by Stephen. A. Metcalf October 2003. People can contact Steve in