Mutsuhiro Watanabe Is not likely a name many of you know. Watanabe was a Prison guard at the Omori prison camp during WW2. He was a violent and malicious man. Having been denied an officer’s rank in the military, Watanabe took vengeance for what he considered a complete disgrace upon the prisoners who were under his supervision.
Watanabe would use a four-foot kendo sword like a baseball bat to beat the prisoners, one in particular received 40 blows to his head for a minor infraction. He would practice judo on a prisoner who had recently undergone an appendectomy. He would burn the letters and pictures of the prisoners while forcing them to watch, and then apologize to them before savagely beating them unconscious.
For this reason, Louis Zamperini, an American Olympian and WW2 veteran who was subject to Watanabe’s tortures struggled with PTSD and a host of problems upon returning home. Zamperini, details his visceral hatred for Watanabe, until he came into contact with Christ at a Billy Graham revival. Zamperini, said at that very moment, God transformed his hatred of Watanabe and the Japanese into love.
Zamperini later wrote a letter to Watanabe later saying:
“To Mutsuhiro Watanabe,
As a result of my prisoner war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. It was not so much due to the pain and suffering as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that caused me to hate with a vengeance.
Under your discipline, my rights, not only as a prisoner of war but also as a human being, were stripped from me. It was a struggle to maintain enough dignity and hope to live until the war's end.
The post-war nightmares caused my life to crumble, but thanks to a confrontation with God through the evangelist Billy Graham, I committed my life to Christ. Love has replaced the hate I had for you. Christ said, "Forgive your enemies and pray for them."
As you probably know, I returned to Japan in 1952 and was graciously allowed to address all the Japanese war criminals at Sugamo Prison… I asked then about you, and was told that you probably had committed Hara Kiri, which I was sad to hear. At that moment, like the others, I also forgave you and now would hope that you would also become a Christian.”
Louis Zamperini had every reason and excuse to hate Watanabe and the Japanese, but when he realized how much God had forgiven him, He could not help but forgive those who had tormented him. He left and witnessed to many of the Japanese war criminals, often visiting them in prison to express his forgiveness and share the Gospel.
Who in your life are you bearing bitterness toward? If God can forgive you, and Louis can forgive Watanabe, what excuse do we have to not forgive those around us?
[Mat 18:23-35 KJV] 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.