Monday, March 19, 2012

How Does It Work?

Justice & Mercy

I can't imagine what was on the minds of those surrounding me.  I found myself in the middle of an extremely boisterous group, waving a four foot stick in my right hand.   I had wrestled it from the grasp of a man 30 years my junior.  My left hand was wrapped tightly around the collar of another man who must have been about the same age as the first man I confronted.  Nearly everyone was shouting excitedly while people from all directions were running towards us to join the cacophony of chaos.  In the middle of the group sat an African man whose face desparately searched upwardly for sympathy from just a single person.  How did I get my self mixed up in all of this?

Stuffed full of gifts for our 8 boda boda friends
Early one morning, Peter, our driver, and I decided to walk to the boda stage to find a driver who would be willing to be hired to take the garbage from our compound to the dump.  As we walked up our street toward the stage, we observed a man riding a bicycle towards us.  Not far behind a tall man was running after him.  Within a few seconds he overtook the bicyclist and roughly pushed him off the bike. We were astonished at what had happened in front of us and quickened our  pace toward the incident, wondering out loud to one another about what had precipitated the removal of the rider from the bicycle. The man who had pushed the rider off, grabbed the man on the ground by the arm, and proceeded to walk him back toward the boda stage. I wondered out loud if the rider had been caught attempting to steal the bicycle.  It turned out I was right.

"Justice" in the Ugandan culture is swift.  While the pace of life in Africa has historically been noted as never in a hurry, when it comes to justice it is more swift than anything I can imagine in America. Police are seldom called when a thief is captured.  Money is usually demanded from the police before they will take any action and so mob rule seems to be the best alternative for executing judgement on thieves. The shouting by everyone at the same time can only be appropriate so that the guilt or innocent of the defendant is sorted out as quickly as possible and the punishment can begin.

New shirt ... new friend (Gary Rowe)
As I assessed the climate of the moment, I found joy and delight oozing with happiness on most faces as they prepared to beat the thief with sticks and stone him.  A Ugandan from the house behind the stage was pleading for the executioners with "don't beat him!  Please take him to police."  She was being ignored.  The frenzy of the crowd caused me to imagine the delight of  spectators enjoying Christians being thrown to the lions centuries ago.  I can only guess that my presence as a white and/or elderly man kept the crowd from beating this man senseless or even killing him.  I had to keep turning in circles to protect the thief from them.  It was like waving a fire brand at wolves come from all angles.

Upon my insistence the bodas went back to work and the stragglers finally gave up.  There is a lot more to the story and the details are fascinating and even unimaginable to most people from the West.  But, those details are not the  point of my blog today.

8 happy & grateful guys
Three days later, Pam and the Oklahoma team that was here at the time, entertained all eight bodas, from that stage, in our compound.  Lunch was served, gifts (including some cash) were given, sodas were drank, and a good time was had by all. The venue provided me with a brief opportunity to explain my actions which interrupted the justice of their culture.  I was pretty confident that they must have concluded that "this white guy just doesn't understand our culture."

I explained to the young men that I saw joy on their faces as they attempted to beat the man, who was stupid for attempting to steal the bicycle, to death.  I tried to explain, in simple terms, what I have discovered about the orphan spirit and how mankind lost their way in the Garden of Eden when they got separated from the Father.  The orphan spirit became the dominant government of mankind as a result and people have been looking for any excuse to feel superior to those around them.  I suggested that each of them were also thieves and liars since most of them have attempted to over charge white people who come from the West.  Their thefts are justified in their own minds, and, when they stumbled upon this particular thief, they quickly lost contact with their own personal guilt and delighted in the prospect of even taking a man's life for stealing a bicycle.

Deodorant gift gets a thumbs up!
I had to confess to these young friends of mine that when I saw their thief I saw myself.  I have been the recipient of mercy in such measure that I can't put words around it.  I explained that as a young man I thought I knew something, but as an old man I am finding out how much I still need to learn.  We all think we know something, but time has a way of continually revising our education.  I explained that I was simply asking for mercy from them ... which was not a statement that I believed the man innocent.  I had witnessed the crime and knew full well of his guilt, but I was only begging for mercy. The joy of my explanation is that Jesus Christ stepped into the path of death for me and took my guilt upon Himself so that I could be restored back to an intimate relationship with my Father.  I was only asking for an expression of that mercy from them because I have benefited so much from it.

I still have no idea what is in the minds of those men, but I know one thing for sure.  They know I am their friend and that I love them very much.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your comments here.