April 7, 2006

Forgiveness

Having seen Hotel Rwanda, I can only partially imagine the horror of the genocide. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed while the rest of the world stood back and watched.

Here is an article about remarks made by the current president: Rwandan leader to critics: 'You kept quiet' during genocide

I assume it to be nearly impossible to forgive under such circumstances.

Here is a quote:

"In Kigali, a survivor who had come to bury remains of her two brothers said she saw no chance for peace between the Hutu and Tutsi survivors because some 54,000 culprits have been pardoned and released from prison.

"How do you expect me to swallow that bitter pill of reconciliation when I see people who killed these two brothers of mine walking freely on the streets of Kigali?" Claire Uwineza told Reuters."

I can't imagine having to reconcile Jesus' statements to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt you after experiencing such atrocities.

Corrie Ten Boom once wrote:

"It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggles to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."

I imagine that Corrie ten Boom can understand this woman's need. Forgiveness is not so much for the offender, as much as it is for the person offended. I have witnessed first-hand the power of bitterness and not forgiving someone. It eats a person alive, and they soon become an empty shell.

The Bible also tells us that in order to receive forgiveness we must forgive others. This is not because God won't forgive us, but because when we refuse to forgive, we shut ourselves off to receiving forgiveness.

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