On Friday, I went to a screening of the film "Back Home," a documentary covering the story of one man who survived the Rwandan genocide in 1994. One of the themes of the film was reconciliation.
The method by which Rwandans have chosen to bring the perpetrators of the genocide to justice is called "gacaca", which means "grass court." At that time the the perpetrators come before the village, including the victim's family, and confesses the crime. Then, the victim's family has the opportunity to release the guilty party from their burden through forgiveness. There are still penalties paid by the offender, but this was described as the first step in their "re-humanization."
One of the words that struck me as the director talked about this process was the word "sacrifice." He said that in order for reconciliation to begin, the victim must sacrifice their right to vengeance. Those victims have every single right to demand justice be served and claim the authority to see the guilty pay for what they have done, but for the greater good, they forfeit that right.
To me, this is one of the greatest examples of selflessness I could ever fathom. It leads me to think of how much more then we should be willing to lay down our "right" to claim vengeance on those who have wronged us in the run of the mill, every day offenses.
There are times when we are done wrong- no question about it (although there are many more often times when we played a part in our being offended). But for those times when we are purely wronged, we have the choice to make the offender pay or to release them and help them "re-orient" to life in the Spirit rather than life led by the flesh, which led them into the offense.
Last night in my small group we read Numbers 21:4-8. It intrigues me because Moses had every right to be furious with the Israelites. He had been a faithful leader, and all he seemed to get was the shaft from the people. But when they plead with him to pray for them, he did. And because of his prayers, the Lord delivered the people.
I'm not sure how theologically sound this theory is, but I believe that those kinds of selfless, sacrificial prayers are deeply honored by God. When the offended can lay aside their right to anger and pray for the offenders, Satan's plan is thwarted and the Lord can work powerfully.
The Lord is good, and His ways are far above mine. This is one of those things that doesn't make sense to me, but I praise God for his love and the Holy Spirit that enables us to have moments where we can transcend this fallen world.