Real forgiveness

Ronnie___maggie_3 Posted by Ronnie & Maggie Briggs on Sat, 12 Mar 2016 | 3 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

In traditional Maasai culture to forgive is to really forgive. The Maasai believe that, as we are human, we are likely to fall into sin at some time or other – almost as if it is inevitable. There is therefore, a well-defined structure to deal with this when it arises. If someone commits a crime it is difficult to hide and eventually that person will be caught. The Maasai are still very much an oral community and everything is talked about at great length, and when a crime is committed it becomes a very hot topic.

So, the person who committed the crime will soon be found out. When this happens then the Elders meet to discuss the issue. The family of the person who has committed the crime is called, along with the family of the victim of the crime.

When a crime is committed amongst the Maasai community it is a crime against the whole family and not just to an individual, so it is the families that face each other in front of the Elders. As the details of the crime unfold the person who committed it will be asked if he is indeed the guilty one. Then in front of his family, the family of the victim and the gathered Elders, he will admit to the crime, beg forgiveness for it, explain that it is not something that he would normally do and promise not to do it again.

The Elders will then discuss what the penalty should be – usually in terms of giving the victim’s family a number of goats or cattle, depending on the severity of the crime. Once this is agreed then another meeting will be held and the agreed payment will be made to the victim’s family and then the person who committed the crime will be forgiven in this public setting.

The significant part of all of this is that once this happens the crime will be forgotten completely by all concerned – as if it never happened in the first place. I found that part to be the most intriguing. How can you actually forget that it never happened? I have even heard of situations where the person who committed the crime, and the victim, have become firm friends through the process and remained life-long friends afterwards. I found that quite amazing. When I reflect back over the years I found that in many cases, even after I have either been forgiven or have forgiven someone, it has been hard to forget, and the perceived wrong would still impact the quality of the relationship – for years afterwards.

After considering this for some time I was struck quite forcefully by the words of Isaiah 43:25:

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

When God says our sins are forgiven He actually means they will be ‘remembered no more.’ This is different from just ‘forgetting’. If I forget something then there is a possibility that in some circumstances, I may remember again, and that indeed has been my experience. However, ‘remembering no more’ is something much different – it is a conscious decision to remove the issue from my mind as if it had never happened. Understanding how this works in the Maasai community has helped me to understand a great biblical truth.

For the first time, I have truly come to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness – and therefore the depth of his love.

As Easter approaches, the theme of forgiveness is a priority for many and will certainly be part of our reflections here in Kajiado.


Jenny Smyth said Mon, 14 Mar 2016 10:08AM
Thank you, Ronnie and Maggie, a timely reminder for Holy week.
Gillian Maganda said Wed, 16 Mar 2016 06:31PM
Lovely blog guys! Thinking of you both xo
Nigel Weallans said Fri, 15 Apr 2016 02:16PM
Great subject. I think I heard sometime that if someone made a mistake when writing on a scroll, they would scratch it out, before writing on top. I like this as a symbol of God's forgivenes of our sins.

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