To Hug or not to Hug a Serial Rapist?

So I’m hugging this serial rapist, and it feels OK.
 
Should I not be hugging him? I mean, God’s forgiveness extends to me, but can it really extend to him?
 
It was all very sobering. We spent a full day in a maximum security prison on Friday. The inmates had been working through our More than Conquerors DVD and were loving it. The chaplain contacted me last year, and we arranged that when I was next in town I’d come and share face-to-face. So it was a privileged opportunity to spend some time with society’s biggest rejects. Some looked fearsome with their tattoos, scars, and barrel-chests, whilst others looked completely normal – but they were all murderers, ‘aggressive homosexuals’, rapists, you name it.
 
I was talking on forgiveness on the back of a sermon I gave a couple of weeks ago from Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18. (Click here if you want to listen) We need to forgive, and be forgiven. It might not be logical, deserved, easy or cheap, but we are commanded to do so. To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was you.
 
I shared my Rwandan friend Sarah’s story. I’ve cried and prayed with her in the back garden at the graves of her husband and three of her children who were hacked to death. When she heard that the killers had come, she ran home, but was too late for them. Nevertheless, she still had three kids who were still alive, so she packed some things together hurriedly, and tried to flee with them to relative safety in neighbouring Congo. But she came to a road block and a man took her to the side of the road to kill her.
 
She said to him: “I’m not afraid to die, because I know that as soon as you kill me, I’ll be with Jesus.”
 
He replied: “No, God is dead.”
 
I think in those genocidal days you could indeed easily believe that God was dead.
 
Well, Sarah prayed: “God, if you’re dead, I don’t want to die. So show me you’re alive.”
 
The man stripped her to rape her. As he did so, he found her money stashed in her bra, so he seized it and ran off with the other militiamen in pursuit at the also wanted a share. She was able to get dressed quickly and escape with her children.
 
Months later, when things settled down, she returned to her home town. She heard that that man, who had been about to penetrate her, and kill her and her kids, was in jail. It was a jail built for 1,000 men but had 7,000 inmates in a living hell. She got permission from the head of the jail to see that man.
 
What would she say? What would you say? How far can forgiveness extend? What did he deserve?
 
She told him that Jesus commanded her to forgive him, to love him, and to care for him.
 
“I forgive you, I love you, and I will care for you.”
 
Wow!
 
What did young Jonti (most of them were in their early twenties, and talking of ‘when my parole comes in 2027’) or David make of it? Jonti knew he’d been forgiven much, and now he loves much. He was so filled with faith, and said he’d never been so happy in all his life – this in the context of very real daily danger of being raped or attacked. David likewise radiated peace despite his costly decision to follow Christ in the jail.
 
Lights in a very dark place.
 
Incarcerated.
 
But free.
 
Are we?

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