Sometimes the human heart is moved to imitation of Christ. It may be a conscious act, or a subconscious act. It’s as if the Heavens open up and a ray of light shines down, projecting Christ to the world. This is one of those times.
Forgiveness in Rwanda
I was browsing my favorite news sites when I came across an article on CNN’s Belief Blog titled, “My Take: If Rwandans can forgive killings, we can forgive the waitress.” The word “Rwandans” no longer simply means someone from Rwanda. It means someone that has lived through the recent genocide when the Hutus slaughtered 800,000 of their Tutsi neighbors.
So I kept reading.
The author began the piece,
“Would you forgive the bully that tripped you in 3rd grade? What about the terrible service from that lazy waitress? Or the guy who cut you off on the interstate?
Maybe the bully in 3rd grade, but not the waitress, right? I mean there was no one in the restaurant and it still took forever to get my drink. And then you read this:
What about the man who murdered your children? If he asked you for forgiveness, would you grant it? Would you agree to spend time with him – maybe one day call him your friend?”
Whoa. That sounds crazy. If anything, we should get a lawyer and seek justice. No one would actually forgive them. In the author’s words,
“Our culture certainly doesn’t promote the idea. The terms we discuss are “death penalty” vs. “life sentence.” We expect full justice at every turn.
No one ever goes so far as to say, “You know, you might consider forgiving the guy that killed your dad.” And who would suggest building a relationship with the murderer?”
God’s grace on earth
This is where Heaven begins to open. People in Rwanda are actually forgiving those that murdered their mothers, children, and brothers. Inspired by the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative, Rwandans are seeking out and forgiving the people that killed those closest to them.
Look at the picture again:
The message on their arms reads, “Love is the weapon that destroys all evil.” They look like good friends don’t they?
But here’s what you don’t see:
“It’s hard to believe that the man named Innocent, left, murdered five people, including the brother of Gespard, right. They are standing on the site of the executions.
After serving a few years in prison, Innocent was released upon confessing to his crimes. He begged Gespard for forgiveness during a reconciliation workshop sponsored by the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative.
Like many Rwandans, these men participated in a reconciliation process that involved months of workshops, along with praying and doing agricultural work together, part of an ingenious effort to encourage reconciliation and alleviate poverty at the same time.
Today, Innocent and Gespard count each other as friends.”
A different view of forgiveness
That, my friends, is how you have to think Jesus feels about forgiveness. Our goal is not to forgive those we think we can forgive. Our goal is to walk in the ways of Christ, and forgive those whom He forgives.
Perhaps we would have a different view of forgiveness if we thought about not forgiving like the Rwandans. The article says that,
“some Rwandans liken unforgiveness to the experience of having acid eat you from the inside out.”
The experience of having acid eat you from the inside out. I like that. Too often we put negative words alongside forgiveness and positive words next to justice.
What we should do is elevate forgiveness to the place it belongs – under the umbrella of God’s grace. It’s because of His incredible grace that people like us and the Rwandans can be forgiven. Not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done through dying on the Cross.
I’ll leave you with the hopes and dreams of the author. Perhaps it will inspire you to exercise the radical grace of God in your own life.
“What if we generously tipped our waitress after terrible service? What if we stopped counting the wrongs of our spouse and gave them a clean slate? What if we forgave the uncle who sexually abused us as a child?
From what I witnessed in Rwanda, this kind of radical grace is possible. While incredibly difficult to accomplish – especially if the offender has not admitted their wrong and asked for forgiveness, it’s a force that has the power to tear down walls and free hearts.
Maybe we start small and decide to forgive the waitress, no matter what. Maybe if we begin with small acts of grace, we could one day find ourselves practicing radical grace and restoring humanity, too.”
Have you seen other examples of God’s grace on earth?
Please share them in the comments section.