Teta peered at us from behind the counter of the small store nested next to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Softly, we asked her if she had experienced the awful slaughtering that began on April 6, 1994 in Rwanda and she nodded her head yes. At the age of six her entire family was massacred. Crazed Hutus began ridding the earth of their Tutsi countrymen. Pastor David asked her if she was able to forgive the perpetrators who made her an orphan. She somberly replied, “Forgiveness is a big word.” Then she explained that 24 years later, she could not forget what was done to her family and to herself and, in that remembering, there was an unwillingness to forgive.
We spoke to Teta that forgiveness could only come through the grace of Jesus, One who knew what it meant to be betrayed and murdered. But we did not have the luxury of time or the relational capital to help her move more deeply to absolve life robbers. And in that awareness I was struck by the power of her sincerity and the reminder that too often we give answers that lack the raw, yet refreshing quality of truth. Teta was not about to tell us what we hopedto hear for her experience gave her far too great an appreciation for depravity as to suggest that it might be let go like some kite released into the wind.
It would seem the deeper the pain inflicted on us the harder it is to pardon. Without appropriating grace from heaven, earth’s wounds will not melt like mist before the sun. Anger, bitterness, and pain have a way of becoming entwined in our very marrow. Then another thought occurred to me. Those of us who have never worn the cloak of atrocity can be somewhat smug in suggesting that those who have should forgive.
2 Kings 24:3,4--Indeed, this happened to Judah at the Lord’s command to remove them from His sight. It was because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all he had done, 4 and also because of all the innocent blood he had shed. He had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not forgive.
The number of innocent people King Manasseh killed was nowhere as close in magnitude to the 1,000,000 Rwandans slain. Yet it is insightful to note that in Manasseh’s case, God would not forgive the shedding of innocent blood. It would stand to reason that Teta is not responsible to forgive unrepentant countrymen. I can find no place in Scripture that shows that God forgives where repentance and confession are absent.
If a Hutu approaches Teta and asks for her forgiveness her ability to do so will come through the grace of Jesus. His love dissolves anger and outweighs imprinted memories. He turns bitterness into compassion. Pain finds relief in the reality of what He does, not what she can or cannot do. There is no pretending with forgiving, nor is there always obligation. As Teta profoundly notes, forgiveness is a big word.
In Gacaca I confessed my crimes and asked for forgiveness. I served my sentence and was released. However, my conscience still accuses me of having killed innocent people. I must do what is good for others; I must prevent wrong doing in any form because I know how far it has taken me.—Hassan Ntibimenya
©2018 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)