Engaging the Culture
10/24/14 at 09:50 AM 4 Comments

Punishment: It's Not Enough!

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“We realized that it was not enough to just punish!”

That comment was made by a Christian leader I talked with in Rwanda this past July . . . almost exactly 20 years after the genocide.

The Face of Evil

During what can only be described as a horrific 100 day period from April to July 1994, extremists within Rwanda's political elite ordered members of the army, national police, and government backed militias to recruit and pressure one group of Rwandans to arm themselves with machetes, clubs, blunt objects and other weapons to kill, rape and maim another group of Rwandans.

In just 100 days, 800,000 innocent people were brutally murdered – six men, women and children every minute . . . of every hour . . . of every day . . . for more than 3 months.

During that short period of time, between 250,000 and 500,000 women and girls were raped – many maimed and sexually mutilated, or raped by men with AIDS who had been released from hospitals as weapons of genocide.

75,000 children survived the genocide as orphans.

In the words of more than one person I spoke to – “The forces of hell had been unleashed on the earth!”

The Response to Evil

“We realized that it was not enough to just punish,” this Christian leader had told me. But what more could be done?

Should those who had been brutally attacked retaliate and do the same – or worse – to those who attacked them? Should they “fight fire with fire?”  Or, to borrow a phrase out-of-context from the apostle Paul, should they “return evil for evil?”

No!

“We realized that it was not enough to just punish,” he explained. And then added, “We needed to restore!”

Leaders in what had in many ways become a purified Christian Church – after other leaders who had compromised their faith had gone or were removed – stepped forward and did a most remarkable thing!

They fought fire with water!  They overcame evil with good!  They proclaimed a message of forgiveness and reconciliation in response to great evil that has taken root in the country and is bearing wonderful fruit!

The Grace of God

The Rwandan experience provides a clear example for us today of how God ultimately deals with His enemies.

For the first 500 years of its existence, many prominent leaders in the Christian Church believed that God’s judgments went beyond simply punishing for sin. They believed that God would ultimately treat all His enemies in the same way He treated the apostle Paul.

Paul called himself the worst of sinners. And he wasn’t just speaking out of false modesty. He had intentionally persecuted, and even had Christians put to death. But God didn’t just punish Paul for his sins. He didn’t just prevent him from doing bad things. God transformed Paul’s heart so that Paul became a powerful force for doing good.

Corrie ten Boom, after experiencing a horror similar to that of the Rwandan genocide in a Nazi concentration camp, commented – “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

“We realized that it was not enough to just punish," I was told. "We needed to restore!”

Has the Church today largely forgotten that truth?

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