Thursday, September 4, 2008

If You Would Have Known Me, You Would Not Have Killed Me

Just outside the Ntarama genocide site, where 5,000 people were killed inside a sanctuary, this banner (to the right) hangs. Translated the banner reads... "If you would have known me, you would not have killed me!"

Powerful banner, huh? I also took a picture of this beautiful plant that was also outside Ntarama, to me it is a sign of hope!

What's in a name? About a decade ago my wife and I were serving with the Missionaries of Charity at Kalighat, the home for the dying and destitute. Each day we would spend time with folks who were clinging to life on their death beds. Each morning we would feed them, bathe them, and spend time "hanging out" with them. Each day there would be someone who would die. Death puts a perspective on life.

One day there was a boy, about the age of 16 that was aprrarently starting to die. As he began to breath heavily, I stepped to the side and began praying for him. Believing in the power of prayer, I asked God to be with this child, to use his story to make a difference in the world. As I said the "amen," I looked up and the child was dead (I'm no Benny Hinn, you could say). A bit shocked, I went to the head nurse and asked her what the boy's name was. I will never forget the sterness on her face as she looked me square in the eyes and said, "You know as much about this child as I do." The child died without a name!

Feeling a bit overhwelmed we went back to our hostil and I came across the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 19:16 ff.). In the story you have the rich man living in luxury, insulated from the cries of the poor at his front gate. Just outside the front gate sits Lazarus, a beggar. As fate would have it, they both died. What is interesting in the story though, is that it is the rich man who dies without a name (unless his name is "Rich," which doesn't make since in the context). The crazy irony of it all is that the rich man probably died without ever knowing the name of the beggar that sat at his front gate.

What's in a name? When Shane and I were speaking at the Seminary in Rwanda, I told this story. Afterwards someone asked what the big deal was if someone died without a name? I think there is a lot tied into the name of a person. To know a name is to humanize them. They are no longer "hey you," or some category of a person such as homeless, Hutu, Tutsi, American, etc. I do not believe that the rich man ended up in hell because he was rich. I think it was because he did not care! 1 John 3:17 ff tells us that if we have material possessions and see a brother or sister in need, and are not moved by compassion, how can the love of God be in us? I think the eternal destiny of the rich man would have been different if he simply would have cared. If he would have invited Lazarus to sit at his table, to share a meal (rather than him just eating the scraps out of the trash). Or maybe things would have been different if he would have went outside his front gate and spent time begging with Lazarus for a while. If the rich man would have taken the time to know him, to really know Lazarus, he would have had to care. How could he continue to insulate and isolate himself from his brother?

I think there is a lot in a name. "If you would have known me, you would not have killed me." What would have happened in Rwanda, if people would have known each other by name, rather than by Hutu or Tutsi?

Matthew 7:21-23 says, "Not everone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them planly, I never knew you. "

I would say there is a lot in a name? I have often heard people ask the question, "Do you know Jesus?" Maybe the question we should ask is, "Does Jesus know you?"

-chris lahr
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