In April of 1994 one of the most horrific modern examples of genocide began in Rwanda. During a 100 day period members of the Hutu tribe systematically killed members of the Tutsi tribe, or those of mixed heritage, or Hutu who were sympathetic to the Tutsi. Weapons were guns, machetes, clubs, or anything that could be used to bash a head in. In Jabiro, a town once known for harmony between the two tribes, the Tutsi were driven out by May. When the slaughter stopped, Tutsi people began coming back to where their homes used to be. Tutsi homes had been destroyed by the Hutu genocidaires while Hutu homes had been destroyed by the army that took control. One older Tutsi woman recounted coming back to her banana plantation that had been destroyed. Hutu neighbors fed them. People who had stolen furniture returned it, asking forgiveness. Reconciliation began.
Imagine how hard it must have been for that old woman to trust her Hutu neighbors. But trust she did. The reconciliation that happened in Jabiro was representative of the reconciliation that has occurred in the whole nation. In Rwanda now, there are no claims of being Hutu or Tutsi the people are all Rwandan. It’s hard to trust those who have tried to kill you. Saul had become a terror to Christians, seeking to imprison and threaten them. In his zeal, he got permission to go after the young church in Damascus. On the road to Damascus, Paul met Jesus. He was blinded by the encounter and had to be led into Damascus where he stayed without eating for three days. God spoke to a believer named Ananias and told him to welcome Saul into the faith. Ananias hesitated. He reminded God of what Saul had done to believers. God told Ananias what Saul would do for Him. “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 9:17)
Reconciliation happened when Ananias reached out to Saul. Imagine the fear that Ananias must have dealt with. His trust overcame his fear, though and we had a world changing event. Saul the persecutor had become Saul the preacher. We now know him as Paul. The Jews who knew why Saul had come to Damascus were confounded as Saul appeared in the synagogues preaching about Jesus. Saul turned the heat up in Damascus with his preaching and before too long it got too hot for Saul in Damascus. He faced the first of what would become many death threats. So, the disciples smuggled Saul out of Damascus to protect him. Reconciliation with the Christians in Jerusalem would take a while longer, but it happened eventually because one man took the risk to bring it about.
Reconciliation is always difficult. As I look at Christians around the world who are persecuted, I not only pray for the persecuted church, I pray for her persecutors. I pray that the church and those who used to persecute the church will be able to reconcile – and sooner rather than later. On a smaller scale, reconciliation needs to happen every day among people in the church. We sin against each other. We get hurt feelings. We stop talking to each other and the fellowship of God’s people is fractured. Reconciliation happens when one of the people who was hurt is willing to forgive the other person and extend a hand of fellowship to the one who hurt them. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary. As society changes and becomes less friendly towards churches and Christians, we need to be reconciled to each other so that we can have the peace and the strength to bring Christ’s reconciliation to the world.
Oh Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution, even death because of their commitment to You. I pray for their persecutors that they would experience Your mercy and grace. I pray that Your church might be reconciled to each other so that we can offer the gift of reconciliation to the world.