In 2014, photographer Pieter Hugo traveled to Rwanda for a remarkable project: photographing perpetrators and victims of the 1994 genocide—together. Each photo includes a Hutu who has been forgiven by a Tutsi survivor. One survivor, Viviane Nyiramana, said: “He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He . . . helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him—now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.”
We struggle to imagine the immense courage and strength it takes to forgive the murderer of your family—and yet our sins against God were even greater. Our entire beings were oriented toward rebellion against Him. And still, in Christ, the Lord has offered us His forgiveness. Our text today explores what it means for us to locate our identity as forgiven people in Christ. First, we see a description of what our lives used to look like: sensuality, greed, bitterness, anger, and selfishness. Our hearts were opposed to God and our minds were ignorant of Him.
Because we are forgiven, our lives should be different now. Now that we know Christ and are in Him, we should replace lies and slander with truth and encouragement; instead of stealing we should be productive; instead of expressing rage and holding grudges we should offer kindness and compassion.
Finally, we are instructed to forgive others—not because it feels good or makes a nice story but because God has forgiven us. Our sin was great, but His love was greater. We have been “made new in the attitude of your minds” and we are to follow God’s righteousness and holiness (vv. 23–24). We have no excuse to withhold forgiveness.
Apply the Word
As Pieter Hugo says, “Forgiveness is not born out of some airy-fairy sense of benevolence.” It is both free to give and costly to offer. If you struggle to forgive someone in your life, consider reading Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Moody Publishers), available online and in local Christian bookstores.