"For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In 2003, driven by overcrowded prisons, the Rwandan government released 52,000 genocide criminals back into society.
The people who had already confessed to killing their neighbors were sent back to their homes, back to neighborhoods literally destroyed at their own hands to live beside the few surviving relatives of the very men, women, and children they killed.
Fr. Steven Gahigi, an Anglican priest who lost 142 members of his family during the Rwandan genocide had to face this tough question: How does one move towards reconciliation with such evil, much less love as Jesus taught?
Fr. Gahigi believed this horrific tragedy made him lose his ability to forgive, which did not sit well with this man of faith. Day after day, and night after night, he prayed. And he prayed. Then one night he saw an image of Jesus Christ on the cross that shook him awake. The cross, to Fr. Gahigi, was the ultimate weapon of forgiveness.
Inspired by this vision, he found the words again and began preaching forgiveness. From jail cells to neighborhoods, his love and understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ gave to the world brought healing to his own heart as well as to the hearts of those still suffering from the deep wounds of anger and resentment.
The cross is not only a journey to a particular destination, but it is also an action that we must undertake. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be a disciple of mine, my pick up their cross and follow me.” For Fr. Gahigi, like many others and myself, forgiveness would be his cross.
Jill Carattini writes, “Jesus extends to the world the possibility of reconciliation by simply embodying it. His suffering, and willingness to be broken by the very people with whom he is trying to reconcile, is the very road to our healing and wholeness and holiness. Far from the suggestion of a moralistic god watching a world of suffering and brokenness from a distance, the costly ministry of reconciliation comes to a world of violence and victims through arms that first bore the weight of the cross.” (1)
You might say that it is in our forgiveness that we find our salvation. Our cross is our destination and our purpose.
As we walk towards the cross we must faithfully hold fast to the promise of the Lord who said, “I will remember their sins no more.” With a clean heart and faithful spirit, we can approach God with confidence; faithfully believing God loves us and accepts us.
With faith in the righteousness of God, we can accept others as they are, and accept ourselves as imperfect as we are. Better still, we can risk forgiving and being forgiven.
Prayer: Dear God, help me to see my own forgiveness in the cross of Christ so that I might be able to forgive and live faithfully to your righteousness and will. Amen.
(1) Jill Carattini. A Slice of Infinity: The Suffering of Forgiveness. Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Sept 20, 2011. http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/the-suffering-of-forgiveness/