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« A Primer for Lent | Main | Busted! »

February 25, 2009

Lenten Reflections: Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness, Day One

Rouault Before I left for Rwanda to write As We Forgive, I was reading a book called The Keys to My Neighbor’s House, by journalist Elizabeth Neuffer, who covered the atrocities of both Bosnia and Rwanda. She writes about returning to interview perpetrators. When I read this I couldn’t get it out of my mind: “What’s most chilling when you meet a murderer is that you meet yourself."

That’s not a popular thought, but it is a sobering one. And it’s a perfect place to begin my Lenten reflections.  

There’s this stubborn thing that honest people know. I don’t mean honest in the sense of never telling a lie. I mean the people who are willing to not gloss over their own flaws. I mean the people who are willing to judge themselves not by the measuring rod of others, not even by the measuring rod of the face they present the world, but by the measuring rod of what’s in the heart.

The prophet Jeremiah put his finger on it: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus picked up the theme. He said:

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

If I tell myself that I never could have done what the killers in Rwanda did, that I never could have done this or that, I kid myself. Apart from God’s grace, the murderer I’m interviewing could be me. I don’t want to look into the murderer’s mirror, but I need to. But for God, his eyes are my eyes. And even more chilling, on the days when I think angry thoughts about others, Jesus says that murderer’s heart is my heart.

Sackcloth and ashes: these need to be mine.

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Comments

Mary E. DeMuth

The older I get, the easier I realize my own depravity. It's strange because I feel closer and more connected to Jesus each day, but there's something lurking deep inside where I know my own capabilities if left to myself.

Sobering indeed.

Your comment "but for God" is the crucial difference...separating would-be murderers from those who are not capable (and could not become killers). Righteous anger - directed at evil acts- is not the same as the murderous anger I believe Jesus was referring to. He was angered at the hypocrisy of the pharisees...he did not hold murder in his heart. Do not mistake the temporary charm of the person with whom you dialoged as a mirror of yourself, please.

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