In A South African Courtroom      

 

Recently, a frail black woman rose slowly to her feet in a South African courtroom.  She was 70-something, the years deeply etched on her face.

       Facing her from across the room were several white security police officers.  One, a Mr. van der Broek, had just been found guilty of murdering the woman's son and her husband.  The man had come to the woman's home a number of years earlier.  He had taken her son, shot him at pointblank range, and then burned his body while he and some other officers reveled in the act.

       Several years later, van der Broek had returned to take away her husband as well.  For two years, she could learn nothing of what happened to him. Then, van der Broek came back for the woman herself.  She was led to a place beside a river.  There, she saw her husband bound and beaten, lying on a pile of wood.  The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were, "Father, forgive them."

       But not long ago, justice caught up with Mr. van der Broek.  He had been found guilty, and it was time to determine his sentence.  And as the woman stood, the presiding official of the court asked, "So, what do you want?  How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"

       In reply, the woman said, "I want three things.  I want first to be taken to the place where my husband's body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial."  She pauses, then continues.  "My husband and son were my only family.  I want, secondly, therefore, for Mr. van der Broek to become my son.  I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining within me."

       "And, finally," she says, "I want a third thing.  I would like Mr. van der Broek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive.  This was also the wish of my husband.  And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. van der Broek in my arms, embrace him and let him know that he is truly forgiven."

       As the court assistants led the elderly woman across the courtroom, Mr. van der Broek, overwhelmed by what he heard, fainted.  Then quietly, from those in the courtroom, friends, family, and neighbors -- all victims of similar oppression and injustice -- began to sing "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now I'm found.  ''Twas blind, but now I see."        

       "Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.  Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10