The following is an article sent to us by a friend we made last September. She was part of Point of Grace Team 8, and when she read this article she thought it would be of interest to us. She was right. I've done quite a bit of reading on South African history since we arrived in the country. South Africa was under "Apartheid" government for over 50 years, ending in 1994. The peaceful end of apartheid was brought about largely as a result of the work of Nelson Mandela. If anyone had right to be bitter, he did. Yet through his efforts, large-scale bloodshed and civil war was avoided. Following is the article Jamey sent, and I'm sure it will be interesting to you as well.
For a display of shocking grace, take a look at The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)—a court-like body assembled in South Africa in 1995 to defuse the natural pattern of revenge resulting from one oppressed race or tribe taking control of another. In his book about the TRC,Rumors of Another World, Philip Yancey writes:
“For the next two-and-a-half years, South Africans listened to reports of atrocities coming out of the TRC hearings. The rules were simple: if a white policeman or army officer voluntarily faced his accusers, confessed his crime, and fully acknowledged his guilt, he could not be tried and punished for that crime. Hard-liners grumbled about the obvious injustice of letting criminals go free, but [Nelson] Mandela insisted that the country needed healing even more than it needed justice.
At one hearing, a policeman named van de Broek recounted an incident when he and other officers shot an eighteen-year-old boy and burned the body, turning it on the fire like a piece of barbecue meat in order to destroy the evidence. Eight years later van de Broek returned to the same house and seized the boy's father. The wife was forced to watch as policeman bound her husband on a woodpile, poured gasoline over his body, and ignited it.
The courtroom grew hushed as the elderly woman who had lost first her son and then her husband was given a chance to respond. "What do you want from Mr. van de Broek?" the judge asked. She said she wanted van de Broek to go to the place where they burned her husband's body and gather up the dust so she could give him a decent burial. His head down, the policeman nodded in agreement.
Then she added a further request, "Mr. van de Broek took all my family away from me, and I still have a lot of love to give. Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him. And I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God, and that I forgive him too. I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real."
Spontaneously, some in the courtroom began singing Amazing Grace as the elderly woman made her way to the witness stand, but van de Broek did not hear the hymn. He had fainted, overwhelmed.
When I read stories like this I began to realize how I often sell the idea of grace short, and I don't think I’m the only one. Webster's defines grace as: A) beauty or charm of form and movement, B) a delay granted for payment of an obligation, C) a short prayer of thanks for a meal, or D) a title of an archbishop.
I think we could agree that to Christ, grace means a lot more than any of these definitions. Yet even when we think of grace in divine terms, I don't think we quite grasp its meaning. Grace is not only what he did for us, it's what we do for others. This is where it gets difficult because true grace is considerably more costly than just tolerating the person who stole your parking space at the mall and infinitely more demanding than choosing to overlook the customer service representative who was a little rude to you.
Yancey says that true grace is shocking and even scandalous. It shakes our standards with its insistence on getting close to sinners and touching them with mercy and hope. And not just "sinners" in general, grace chooses to forgive those closest to us. Those who have truly let us down, those who have brought havoc into our lives with their careless words or selfish actions, those who stole the things most precious to us, those who cheated us, lied to us, and left us with nothing but pain. Grace forgives the unfaithful spouse, the racist, the child abuser, and grace loves today's AIDS-ridden addict as much as Jesus loved the tax collectors, adulterers, and prostitutes of his day.
This kind of grace is difficult to even think about and truly impossible to pull off on our own. It can only come from Christ who is at work in our lives. That's why true grace is more than just a nice idea or a pretty word—it’s revolutionary. This kind of grace will transform lives, restore marriages, unify the church, and truly change the world.
"Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."