Suburban North American Church
As everybody rose to sing Al stayed seated in the pew, arms crossed defiantly. He never stood during the choruses. Driving drums, distorted guitar and vacuous lyrics. “They make it sound like Jesus is my boyfriend,” he muttered. “Everything sounds like it came straight off secular radio.”
Al scanned the sanctuary. Granted there were a number of new young families. But that seemed to be all this fool young “worship” pastor cared about: “New, young families.” Al made eye contact with Fred across the aisle. Fred was standing but he had a scowl on his face that could make paint peel. “I’ll have to speak with Fred after church,” Al thought. “It’s time to take action. It’s time to get rid of that twit up there and his ‘choruses’.”
Suburban Rwandan Church
Emmanuel always felt the pain, especially at Easter. It had been twenty years since his wife and children had been massacred in the genocide. People had said that the pain would lessen over time. Emmanuel had believed them for a while. But he didn’t any longer. Every day he thought about his precious daughters. Today they would be young women, but instead they were cut down as young children…
Emmanuel looked around the congregation at the Hutu Christians is his midst. He’d never know all that they had done and failed to do. But he did know that in those horrifying weeks Paster Sebahive had refused to offer Tutsis sanctuary. Some reports suggested that Pastor Sebahive had done even worse things. Emmanuel couldn’t be sure, but he had his suspicions. Even so, he also knew that Pastor Sebahive had long pleaded for forgiveness. He had admitted that he had not done enough to help his Tutsi congregants. And since those bloody days he had long been among the most active members of the reconciliation movement in the community. “Emmanuel,” he had once said with tears in his eyes, “I will forever live with the consequences of my sins and failures. It is my agony that you must as well.”
In that moment Emmanuel had finally decided to forgive Pastor Sebahive for the things he’d done and the things he’d left undone. But it wasn’t easy. Nonetheless, as Pastor Sebahive’s deep baritone voice rose up from the congregation and out over the green misty hills of Rwanda with an impromptu rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Emmanuel felt just enough strength to forgive for yet another day.
About Randal Rauser
Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta. He is the author of many books, including Is the Atheist My Neighbor?: Rethinking Christian Attitudes toward Atheism (2015), The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver, and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (2012), and You’re Not as Crazy as I Think: Dialogue in a World of Loud Voices and Hardened Opinions (2011). Rauser blogs and podcasts as The Tentative Apologist at randalrauser.com.