Friday, August 19, 2005
Stewards of Reconciliation
In 2003, a film was released about South-Africa entitled, "In my Country." Based on a auto-biographical book written by journalist Antjie Krogg entitled, "Country of My Skull," the film fleshes out the White South-Afrikaner author's personal experience with the vestiges of Apartheid. Accordingly, the film depicts the author as a journalist assigned to report on cases brought before the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," or TRC, which was established by the government. The film, which could be described as somewhat of a docudrama, tells not only the story of the journalist's struggle with her White South-Afrikaner family as she provides news coverage of the controversial commission, but the story of an African-American journalist who is struggles with his own anger, and skepticism regarding this new form of justice. While the TRC's appointment and task was documented in newspapers around the world, it seems that not many outside of Africa followed the trials. The commission's principle method for bringing about peace and harmony between Black and White South-Africans was reconciliation. Hearing each case before a room full of Black South-Africans and reporters, the commission asked each Black South-African to sit in front of the room facing the panel with a counselor by his or her side, and describe how the victimization took place. As the victim spoke, the audience listened intently but did not cry, although they groaned audibly. Occasionally the victim cried out in pain as the offending police officer or guard recounted his story of torture and death. You see, in order to receive amnesty, the guilty White South-Afrikaner officer must tell the absolute truth. He and his partner -- if there was one, must describe how the torture, abuse, or murder was perpetrated. Furthermore, the perpetrator was expected to disclose all participants involved in the crime, and to name the authority figures ordered the work done. If it was determined by the TRC that the crime was not politically motivated, the guilty parties were forced to stand trial for their crimes.
One particularly moving story which the film highlighted, occurred when an 8 year old boy walked into his parents' bedroom one night. As he entered the room, he witnessed 2 police officers murder both of his parents, while he stood still, speechless. The TRC counselor had to tell the boy's story for him, for he had not spoken since. There he sat, wide-eyed and tear-less as his story was told. Listening with hushed and bated breath, the audience awaited the officers' story -- and told it they did (the story is too graphic to recount). At the end of his story, the first officer requested amnesty, as if he felt it was his right, as if he deserved it because he had now cooperated with the commission. The second officer however was clearly of a different mindset. As he told his participation in the crime, he added that he was to have shot the boy, but that he could not. "I aimed my gun, but he just stood there calmly looking at me, silent, and I could not." "I disobeyed a direct order in not shooting him, but I just could not." Jumping up from his seat, this police officer said, "at night I see his face, looking at me -- saying nothing." "I can't sleep, I can't eat." At this admission, the officer approached the area where the boy was seated facing him and said, " I would do anything to take back what I have done -- I'll pay in anyway I can -- I'll send him to school and pay his fees, I'll even pay for him to go all the way to college -- I am sorry, so sorry." With that the officer began to sob, as the audience was silent, waiting. The little 8 year old boy who had been listening, stood up and approached the kneeling officer, and after looking at him for a moment, threw his arms around him, hugging him. The audience and panel seemingly through their tears, approves. Although the means of forgiveness and amnesty have been provided through the TRC by the government, it is really the 8 year old boy who is the steward of forgiveness, and reconciliation that day.
How many of us consider ourselves stewards of reconciliation? Unfortunately, not many of us. The sad truth is that only a few of us would choose to forgive a wrong of such magnitude as has been experienced by the Black South-African victims. Yes, as Christians we've professed Christ, but we still but seem to have difficulty forgiving even minute injustices. Yet Christ wants us to be ambassadors or stewards for Him. In 2 Cor. 5 20, the scripture actually calls us "ambassadors for Christ," and "ministers of reconciliation" (see verse 18). It seems that just as Christ has been an ambassador or steward on behalf of the Father to us, that He wants us to follow in His footsteps. This concept is of such importance, that we should take a look at it in 2 Corinthians 5. It reads as follows:
2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
2 Cor. 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Friends, although forgiving and reconciling seems impossibly difficult to us -- our natures finding it extremely distasteful -- yet "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners" ( Rom. 5:8). So, if we are "in Christ," He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, and His commands are not grievous (Phil. 2:13, I John 5:3. What is God's command? That we dispense His grace, and tell the world that Christ has already reconciled them to Himself at His death on Calvary.
As Christians, one of the first things that we learned is that God created the world, so it all belongs to Him, and that He is the rightful owner. We also learned that since He bought us back (redeemed us), we are to be His stewards or managers, and this is where the concept of tithe and offering comes in. But, how about thinking about stewardship in a new manner. How about considering ourselves not only as stewards of the material or tangible goods, such as land, money, and talents that He's given us, but as stewards of the fruit of the gospel. What is the fruit of the gospel you say? Why -- its reconciliation and forgiveness.
God has said as our lesson quotes, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights... (James 1:17 NKJV). He is offering you and me the work of perhaps a higher order than we've previously thought -- stewardship at a higher level than we've yet known. I don't know about you, but I think the offer is worth the risks. So, how about you, will you take it?
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