"All I Have to Offer "
Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Immaculée Ilibagiza was in her early twenties when tribal tensions exploded in her home country of Rwanda. Nearly a million Rwandans were killed during one hundred days of horror. Ilibagiza survived by hiding in a tiny bathroom with eight other women. When the killing finally ceased, she had lost nearly all her family.
Ilibagiza later had the opportunity to meet Felicien, the leader of the gang that killed her mother and brother. Felicien looked at Ilibagiza and met her eyes with shame. Then the young woman said what she had come to say: "I forgive you."
As Ilibagiza writes, "My heart eased immediately, and I saw the tension release in Felicien's shoulders." The guards led him back to his cell. The man who had arrested Felicien asked Ilibagiza how she could respond that way. Ilibagiza answered, "Forgiveness is all I have to offer."
Ilibagiza's words reflect the Christlike choice to forgive. It was a choice because she had to let her desire for love win out over her desire for justice. Felicien never verbalized a response to Ilibagiza's offer of forgiveness, but Ilibagiza's spirit was free of anger. She left her concern for justice in the hands of God and government. She refused to seek revenge.
Today, Immaculée Ilibagiza travels around the world with her message of forgiveness. She has cared for Rwandan children orphaned in the genocide and worked with the United Nations to bring healing to her country. Only Christ's love can take energy that might be spent in anger and turn it into energy spent in love.
Lord, I want to enjoy the freedom of forgiving others.
Dr. Gary Chapman is the beloved best-selling author of The Five Love Languages and Love as a Way of Life. For more information, click here.