Posted by Craig Borlase on 12 June 2018

A Time To Be Reconciled

As North Korea and The United States of America meet, we look at the importance of reconciliation and the power of forgiveness in all our lives

‘Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.’

(Ephesians 4:32, MSG)

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump meet as the world hopes for reconciliation

Hope was returning

I drove a Rwandan bishop to Heathrow once. It was probably the most memorable drive of my life.

Right from the start, the bishop was on fire. His voice rose and fell like ocean waves as he described the things God was doing in his homeland. He talked about the church taking its place at the heart of communities, about unity among people and a growing sense that – twenty years after the genocide – hope was finally returning.

But when he started to tell me a story about two men, Eli and Gaston, my jaw dropped and my eyes misted up.

Eli & Gaston

Gaston was a preacher who lived in a small village in the south of the tiny landlocked country. When the killing started in 1994, he kept out of it. He refused to get involved.

The pressure on him was immense. Having resisted the pressure to join with them at first, Gaston eventually threw away his Bible, picked up a machete and joined the killers. And when the killing was almost over, and there was just one man – Eli – left to get, Gaston was given the job. But he was too tired to use his machete, so he simply beat him over the head and left him for dead.

Soon afterwards the genocide ended and Gaston – along with so many other killers – fled the country. In time he was arrested and put on trial where he was offered the deal: plead innocent and  spend the whole of his sentence in jail, plead guilty and spend the second half back in the village, helping to rebuild everything he destroyed. So many men chose to stay in jail, unable to face the shame of returning to the scene of their crimes. But Gaston knew that unless he asked for forgiveness, he would never find peace. So he returned. He rebuilt homes he’d burned down, dug fields he’d destroyed and tended the crops of families he’d left fatherless.

Confession and forgiveness

And then, one day, there was a meeting of the villagers – a meeting organised by my new friend, the bishop. Gaston stood up and confessed everything, apologising for every one of the horrors he had handed out to them, begging their forgiveness.

He wept, as did many others. Eventually the silence was broken by a man’s voice. It was Eli, the man who Gaston had left for dead. Nobody had seen him since he was attacked. Everyone assumed he was dead.

Eli stood and told the room about what had happened – about how he had survived Gaston’s attack, hid in the malarial swamps nearby and spent the years that followed giving into bitterness and rage. He explained how he’d returned home this one time in the hope of finding some peace at last. And he told them that when he saw Gaston earlier that day, he had vowed never to forgive him, but something had just changed. Somehow he knew that if he didn’t forgive, he’d never find peace.

Eli and Gaston embraced. The whole room exploded with tears and shouts.

Hearts of the Fathers by Nathan Jess - A song of reconciliation

HEARTS OF THE FATHER SONG PAGE

Courage and honesty        

Somewhere in Singapore right now, there are people preparing for talks. It’ll look nothing like the rural hut that Eli, Gaston and the bishop met in. But the politicians pursuing peace will need all the courage and honesty possible in order to reconcile, and the rewards will be great if they do.

Elsewhere, you and I might not have been caught up in a genocide, and the future peace of the planet might not depend upon us, but we are still called to reconcile – with those who have wronged us, with those we have wronged. We’re called to ask forgiveness and offer it. We’re called to be peacemakers.

Every one of us.

And whatever level of discord or disagreement we find in our communities this weekend, let’s reconcile before we stand up to lead.

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