June 2009


as we forgive

‘As We Forgive’ is a gripping account, based on a movie of the same name, of some incredible stories of reconciliation in Rwanda.

Why Rwanda? From April to June of 1994, almost a million (!) Tutsis were murdered by the other major ethnic group in the country, the Hutus – while the UN and the rest of world remained silent and essentially let it happen.   Many of those killed were slaughtered by their neighbors and friends with the machetes (long sharp axe-like tools) they usually used in their gardens and fields to clear brush and shrubs.

The impact of such mass killing on both the survivors and the perpetrators is hard to fathom. And yet in this tenderly and skillfully written account, the gruesomeness of the genocide comes to life. Certainly very hard to read at times, this book is essentially about hope and the freedom that comes when forgiveness is both granted by those have been wronged and received by those who have wronged.

You’ll need a thick skin to read about the horrible ways family members were brutally killed or traumatically injured, and you may even be moved to tears in parts, but don’t let this discourage you from a book that will radicalize your perspective on the transforming power of forgiveness.

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Confess your sins one to another (James 5:16)  “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” 

So opens the final chapter of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, his classic work on how to live out our faith in community.  Like much of the rest of the book, Bonhoeffer is blunt and to the point.  And how right he is.  Our sin isolates us from God. 

Somehow  I’m able to grasp this (somewhat) because God is perfect and flawless and beautiful.  But what is harder for me to really take hold of  is how my sin isolates me from others as well.  And this is particularly true when I’m reluctant to confess my sins, to have them exposed, to be vulnerable, to come clean. 

And yet the irony of this is that I actually can’t hide my sin, no matter how hard  I try.  (And I do try).  In the course of my every day life, I talk, relate to others, make decisions, and remain silent.  And as others observe my behavior and interact with me, they can’t help but see my sin – all over the place.  In fact they are more often than not the recipients of my self absorption, my desire for approval, my lack of courage, and my failure to be compassionate etc. And yet  much of the time I probably don’t even know it!  

Gaining freedom from the stronghold sin has over us starts with confession.  Admitting it, shining the spotlight on it, exposing its ugliness.  Ugh.  It’s often unpleasant    It makes me feel exposed.  And I don’t cherish this.  But this process of admitting my sin and allowing it to be exposed humbles me.  It cuts away at my pride – the root of all sin – and orients my heart toward Jesus and the cross.   Confessing my sin is the first step in me dying to pride and whenever I die, I’m sharing in the pain of the cross. 

No, it’s not pleasant.  It’s not fun.  But confession is a critical step on the pathway towards freedom from that sin.  It’s also a timely reminder that I am covered in Christ’s perfect record so ultimately I have nothing worthwhile to lose.  And a fuller, richer, more authentic life to gain.