Stewards of Reconciliation
The year 2003 saw the release of a film about South-Africa entitled, "In my Country." Based on an autobiographical 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, established by the government. The film tells the story of the journalist's struggle with her White South-Afrikaner family as she provides news coverage of the controversial commission and an African-American journalist who struggles with his anger skepticism regarding this new form of justice. While somebody documented the TRC's proceedings in newspapers worldwide, not many outside of Africa followed the trials. The commission's principal 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, to receive amnesty, the guilty White South-Afrikaner officer must tell the absolute truth. He must describe how they committed the act of torture, abuse, or murder. Furthermore, the TRC expected that the perpetrator disclosed all participants involved in the crime, and to name the authority figures ordered the work done. If the TRC determined that the crime was not politically motivated, the guilty parties were forced to stand trial for their crimes.
One incredibly moving story which the film highlighted occurred when an eight-year-old boy walked into his parents' bedroom one night. As he entered the room, he witnessed two 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 he heard the officer tell his story. The audience - listening with calm and bated breath - awaited the officers' account -- and told it they did (the details are 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. He told of his participation in the crime and added that he was to have shot the boy but 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 sat facing him. and said, " I would do anything to take back what I have done -- I'll pay in any way 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 eight-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, approve. Although the means of forgiveness and amnesty have been provided through the TRC by the government, it is the eight-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 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. However, Christ wants us to be His ambassadors or stewards. In 2 Cor. 5: 20, the scripture 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, He wants us to follow in His footsteps. Let us read what Paul says 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 impossible 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? He commands 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 paid for 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 gives us but as stewards of the fruit of the gospel. What is the fruit of the gospel, you say? It is 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 offers 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?