This morning I posted on a CNN article that described a vicious attack and rape of over 150 women in a Congolese village. Based on feedback from regular blog readers and friends, it is clear that my initial post failed in its goal, and so I decided to remove it and start over. Thank you to everyone who extended the benefit of the doubt about what I was attempting to communicate, and to those who offered clarifications on my behalf.
After reading the article I thought, “If a building fell on these guys
and killed them I think I’d be okay with that.” But that was the
response of my flesh, and I immediately felt the tension between that
first inclination, and the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.
When I re-read the article in light of Matthew 5, I was reminded that we are called to a difficult love. Difficult because it is a love that runs counter to that bubbling anger that would lead us to commit more violence as a solution. Difficult because restoration is so much harder than retribution.
I do not believe that Jesus says the victims of violence should allow themselves repeated abuse, or in some way “choose” to be subjected to violence. In reviewing my post, I realize I left this impression. This is not my belief in any shape, form, or fashion. I apologize for the lack of clarity in the original posting. The abuse of women is never justified under any circumstances. No woman should allow this, and every man should prevent it.
My last two books, Scared and Priceless, brought me face-to-face with the absolute terror of sexual violence toward women and children. Over the past 15 years of ministry leadership, I’ve heard too many firsthand stories of children in Swaziland raped by family members. I’ve listened to young women in Russia tell me the horrors of their abuse. And I’ve laid flowers upon the graves of unknown girls who lost their lives to this kind of violence.
Jesus calls us to a difficult love. Jesus says His love transcends circumstances and injustice. I believe Jesus teaches that this love–this difficult love–will ultimately overcome the evil work of the enemy.
One reader offered this clarification, and I want to share it here. Note: I’m not an expert on the justice and reconciliation process in Rwanda, but I do know there is a role for seeking and obtaining forgiveness from victims:
For me, this story reminds me of the reconciliation that is taking
place in Rwanda following the genocide. If they were to take ‘an eye
for an eye’ from every person that took part in the genocide, Rwanda’s
population would be cut in half…again…and another type of genocide
would take place. What they are doing is bringing the people who took
part to justice, taking them to court. But they bring in the families of
those that the convicted person raped, mutilated and murdered. The
convicted person is then forgiven by the people and they must pay their
debt to society by helping to rebuild the country, kinda like serving
work probation. The kicker? The family must choose to forgive that
person or they will feel the full weight of the law and receive the
death sentence for their crimes. If “our” rapist was brought before us -
by the Most High Judge – would we choose to forgive and let the Judge
handle him or would we want to exact our own revenge.
In light of this, I’ll close as I often do with a question for you as the reader: How do we love the way Christ calls us to love in the face of horrific circumstances?