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Overcoming Bitterness by Forgiveness, like Jake DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchido

In 1970 Mitsuo Fuchida the lead bomber for the Japanese at Pearl Harbor wrote this:

“I would give anything to retract my actions of twenty-nine years ago at Pearl Harbor, but it is impossible. Instead, I now work at striking the death-blow to the basic hatred which infests the human heart and causes such tragedies. And that hatred cannot be uprooted without assistance from Jesus Christ."

What happened?

He had been very angry and bitter and lost after the two bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. He hated the occupational government of Douglas MacArthur. To add insult to injury, he went from being on a major euphoric high as the most exalted Japanese war hero to a simple lowly peasant due to the occupational government and consequential poverty of the lost war effort of Japan. As God’s wonderful providence would have it, he got off a train at Tokyo's Shibuya Station in 1950 and saw an American distributing literature, so he took a pamphlet entitled I Was a Prisoner of Japan.

That pamphlet was the incredible story of a once also very angry and bitter and lost Jake DeShazer, who was at Pearl Harbor the day it was bombed, who afterwards was chosen on Jimmy Doolittle’s squadron that flew the long distance mission retaliating against Tokyo and the pearl harbour bombers. DeShazer ended up running out of fuel, so he parachuted into Japanese held territory in China and was captured by Japanese troops. His next 40 months of confinement were a nightmare of brutal mistreatment, cruelty and torture that lead him to a very great hatred and bitterness towards his captors. A few of his comrades would end up dying while in the prison due to the mistreatment.

Towards the end of that time period, he was given a copy of the Bible and read it for the first time. Soon after he was gloriously saved by repentant faith in Jesus Christ and he was a brand new creature in Christ Jesus. His entire outlook changed about the Japanese and his imprisonment as instantaneously as his conversion had been. In a split second, he went from having a rabid bitter hatred towards the Japs to one of love. The guards thought he had gone mad, but he knew what it meant to be “delivered from the power of darkness,” and “translated into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (Col 1:13-14).

Surviving the war, he was released, but soon after returned to Japan as a missionary. As God would have it, the very man that DeShazer was commanded by Jimmy Doolittle to go and kill in Japan, he would end up (unknowingly) placing into his hands the love story of how God saved him while a prisoner of Japan. Based on DeShazer’s testimony, Fuchida purchased a Bible and himself was gloriously converted on April 14, 1950, having read Lk 23:34, and the words of Jesus Christ on the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." The solution to the bitterness in his heart was the same power of Christ that enabled Him to make that prayer to the Father.

Most of us know that Jesus said to forgive "seventy times seven" (Matt 18:22). Of course, He wasn’t putting a cap on forgiveness, just saying that we don’t limit the times we forgive. In most cases we know we’re supposed to forgive, but in many of them we don’t know how to. It’s importance couldn’t be over stated. Even for saved people. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15). Everybody has their critics, their thorns in the flesh—relatives, family members, co-workers, employers, supervisors, classmates, and church members. These have offended us by something that they have said, or not said, or done. Sometimes it’s worse—some extreme form of unfaithfulness; it could be a verbally or physically abusive parent; or you are gossiped about and slandered; or someone tells a secret you told in confidence. Personal conversations turned into public ones. It hurts. Sometimes it may be bad. You try to deal with it, but you become bitter, even malicious, or deeply depressed. How can you forgive someone when it seems very difficult? This relates to both Mitsuo Fuchido and Jake DeShazer. How do we forgive? Like Jesus did. "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col 3:13). So how did He forgive?

Five words will help us understand how Jesus forgave.

1. Suffering. Jesus forgave us by suffering for our sins. When He suffered, He left us an example to follow (1 Pet 2:21). Christ laid down His life for us, and so should we lay down our lives for others (Jn 15:12-14), especially for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16). We should remember that since Jesus experienced pain when He forgave, it too may hurt and suffer for others in order to forgive them. This is part of what it means to love the brethren (1 Jn 2:9-11; 5:1-3) and our enemies (Lk 6:27-36).

2. Supplication. Jesus prayed for His enemies. When he prayed "Father, forgive them" in Lk 23, He appealed to God and focused on their weakness—"they know not what they do"—rather than on their wickedness. As the offended, we should try to see the weakness of the one offending, rather than the sinful act against us.

3. Sympathy. Jesus came to destroy the "work" of the devil, not the "workers" of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). The Lord Jesus sympathized with us in our iniquities (Heb 4:15). He was more concerned about the sin getting settled than the sinner getting squashed. If we imitate this sympathy of Jesus, it will be easier for us to forgive.

4. Sovereignty. God sovereignly allows our pain (2 Cor 1:3-4). He has His purpose for us, and the hurt we experience can shape our lives and increase our wisdom to something more useable for Him (Jam 1:3; Rom 8:28-29). If we can see the offending person as a means to grow, that will help us to forgive him.

5. Self. Yes, self. Jesus thought not on His own things, but the things of others, and we are to let His mind set be ours (Phil 2:3-5). The powerful king in Christ’s parable in Matt 18:21-35 forgave his servant’s unfathomable monstrous debt, while that same servant wouldn’t forgive a microscopic one someone owed him. That ended up showing his unforgiven and unmerciful heart, that the forgiveness he had experienced had only been skin deep. He was too full of himself to repent and seek after Christ’s forgiveness. But that is required to have true forgiveness of others. Its self, but actually unself.

As that parable ends in Matt 18, we note that forgiveness is an important evidence of salvation (vv 33-35). People that are forgiven, forgive others. “Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col 3:13). “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mk 11:25-26). If we are to forgive like Jesus did, we have to stop thinking how important we are. We aren’t. He is vastly greater than us, and yet He chose to think about others first when He took His trip from a heavenly throne to die for our sins.

You’ll have opportunity to forgive and you won’t feel like you can do it but we are obligated to. DeShazer or Fuchida couldn’t do it without the Lord, but they did with Him. So can we. It’s Gods “royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Jam 2:8).

President Lincoln was asked how he was going to treat the Southerners when they had been unfortunately defeated and returned to the Union of the United States. The questioner expected that Lincoln would take a dire vengence, but he answered: "I will treat them as if they had never been away.”

We are to forgive how Jesus forgave, which is an indication of a regenerate state as noted in the Lord’s prayer, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6:14-15). To help us do that, I believe remembering these five words—suffering, supplication, sympathy, sovereignty, and self—will help us to know how.

At one point in their lives, they harboured bitterness and hatred toward each others nationalities, but by the grace of God and salvation through Jesus Christ, DeShazer and Fuchido would become friends and brothers in Christ and minister together for the remainder of their lives. Only God can do that!

If you would like to read the full gospel tract on Jake DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchido, please click on the following link:

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