“As the Bible and Kyogen have shown me, it is easy to pass judgment; it is not so easy to pass over judgment and even undergo people’s judgment by seeking to build reconciling bridges through apologies, forgiveness, and understanding.” Paul Louis Metzger

In the past few weeks…in several different ways I’ve been challenged to think about the role forgiveness plays in our cultural engagement and diplomacy efforts.

With the hope of expanding my thinking I was asked by co-worker to read A Human Being Died that night, by Pumla Gobodo Madikizela. In A Human Being Died that night, Pumla articulates very vividly here experiences with Apartheid as a black South African Woman.

In the opening pages of the book I found Pumla journeying to a South African prison to visit one of South Africa’s most notorious convicts: Eugene de Kock. Convicted of crimes against humanity Mr. de Kock was found guilty of killing hundreds, maybe even thousands of black South Africans. Upon meeting de Kock Pumla describes him as prime evil: “Prime Evil, the name that marked him as the surest evidence of all that had happened under apartheid. de Kock had not just given apartheid’s murderous evil a name. He had become that evil. The embodiment of evil stood there politely smiling at me” –Madikizela

Madikizela encounter with de Kock and Dr. Metzger’s words on building reconciling bridges through apologies, forgiveness, and understanding. As ambassadors of Christ what role does forgiveness play in our diplomatic efforts? Is Christ forgiveness limited? Ever since reading Madikizela’s statement “he had become that evil. The embodiment of evil” I’ve been wondering what would be response if I were to encounter the embodiment of evil. I’d like to think that I would be able to forgive, so that I could communicate the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness that Christ has to offer, but that is definitely not a natural reaction. The ability to truly forgive, and pass no judgment it is only because of the Holy Spirit. I cannot see the humanity of someone who has done heinous things unless it’s through the image of Christ on the cross. I cannot lovingly engage, the members of ISIS, the jihadist, the white supremacists, or members of different religious organizations or my own with judgment or a un-willingness to forgive in my heart.

Forgiveness, grace, and mercy must be at the foundation of our diplomacy. In light of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus was instructing us to turn the other check, “if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:41) Jesus urges us in the verses that make up the sermon of the mount to see past sin and judgment, not that sin doesn’t deserve punishment, but sometimes, but sometimes in our quest as Christians to eradicate the sin we lean heavily on punishing the sinner; forgetting to acknowledge each other’s humanity, especially when it comes to acknowledging the humanity; that this person, in spite of their beliefs, or crimes was still created in the image of the God…the same image that we were created in.