“The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!” – Ps. 16:3 (NLT)
Imagine if you could bring nine people you consider heroes into the same room and let them share their stories. They might tell you about risking their lives to save another, or persevering through hard times, or maybe standing up for what was right when no one else would. I would listen closely to their stories, certainly with a great deal of admiration.
But then I would bring in Hwaida Refaat, and I’ll bet everyone in the room would agree that she was the real hero as she told about what happened to her and her husband and her daughter.
On Oct. 20 of last year, Refaat’s 8-year-old daughter, Mariam, was killed outside a church in the Al-Warraq neighborhood of Cairo when militant Muslim gunmen rained bullets on her and a large group of people waiting outside a church during a wedding. Hwaida herself was shot six times in the legs. Her husband, Nabil, also was shot.
After surviving a brutal attack in which their little girl was killed, many parents (understandably) would call for revenge on the killers. Not Hwaida and Nabil. What they did on national Egyptian television as they forgave their daughters murderers … well, you can watch it for yourself.
The world needs a lot more people like Hwaida and Nabil, because bringing grace and forgiveness to the table that God sets up in the presence of your enemies does more to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ than a thousand sermons. The good news is that Jesus brought the kingdom of God to us and initiated the new covenant — the new covenant, written in His blood, that says that God forgives sinners who change their minds and ask Him for forgiveness.
Hatred and revenge fall down flat, prostrate, before the power of such forgiveness. And so it was in Egypt when Hwaida Refaat forgave her assailants — her daughter’s killers — on national TV. The civil war that her attackers had hoped to spark by attacking innocents outside a church? She snuffed it out by pleading that her attackers change their minds instead of demanding their heads. That’s grace in golden capital letters, and it helped an entire nation avoid becoming a hellish copy of Syria.
That’s heroism to me: Resisting evil in the name of Jesus, and then doing the unimaginable with the power of Jesus. When the victims of evil do what Jesus said to do and actually forgive their enemies, what can evil do but shrug its shoulders and cower in a dark corner where it belongs?