Justification and the Unity of the Church

I’m reading through Richard Hays’s Galatians commentary in the NIB series and he refers to a story that I’ve heard before in oral tradition, but finally written down and sourced:

[T]he history of the church provides numerous impressive testimonies of the power of the gospel to break down the wall of separation between different races and cultures. One of the most remarkable stories of this kind from recent history emerged from the bloody conflict in Rwanda, where in 1994 members of the Hutu tribe carried out mass murders of the Tutsi tribes. At the town of Ruhanga, fifteen kilometers outside Kigali, a group of 13, 500 Christians had gathered for refuge. They were of various denominations: Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists, and others. According to the account of a witness to the scene, “When the militias came, they ordered the Hutus and Tutsis to separate themselves by tribe. The people refused an declared that they were all one in Christ, and for that they were all killed,” gunned down en masse and dumped into mass graves. It is a disturbing story, but it is also a compelling witness to the power of the gospel to overcome ethnic division. Paul would have regarded these Rwanda martyrs as faithful witnesses to the truth of the gospel. Having been ‘crucified with Chirst,’ they preferred to die rather than to deny the grace of God that had made them one in Christ.”

Richard Hays, “Galatians,” 11:248 from E. Thomas, “Can These Bones Live?” SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) Newsletter (Oct 15, 1996): 1-15.

  • Michael J. Gorman

    You’re right, Mike. These believers understood the meaning of justification.

  • Revdrdre

    Thank you for sharing this. Unity indeed!

  • Olin Herndon

    What a powerful story. What a temptation it is for believers to focus on their differences, neglecting their unity in Christ. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution.