Real Grace in the Face of Death
By Pastor Dan Chaffin
As I was setting up my new office at home I happen to pick up a book, one of many, that caught my eye. I cannot tell you how long I have had it or where I got it from. It was a book of stories and illustrations for sermons or speeches. The second story I read brought tears to my eyes, and I thought this is real grace that the world needs to see and hear. The book is “Your Point Being?” by Graham H. Twelftree, page 175, published by Monarch Books, 2003. That story is the following:
Colin Chapman, in The Case for Christianity, Quotes Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere”s account of the 1973 execution by firing squad of three men from his diocese:
February 10 began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of 3,000 was there to watch.
I had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died, and two of my fellow ministers were with me.
They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood to attention. As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?
We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out: “Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept Him into their lives as I did.”
The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands, which rattled their handcuff. I felt that what I needed to do was talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men’s faces.
The three men faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked toward the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired and they were with Jesus.
We stood in front of them, our own hearts throbbing with joy, mingled with tears. It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it.
The next Sunday, I was preaching to a huge crowd in the hometown of one of the executed men. Again, the feel of death was over the congregation. But when I gave them the testimony of their man, and how he died, there erupted a great song of praise to Jesus! Many turned to the Lord there.
We live in a time where real Christianity is being booed and ridiculed. I believe part of the reason is that anyone can call themselves “Christian” with little evidence or faith. Stories like this one challenge us to examine our faith and make us ask ourselves, “Would I die for my faith?”
It is my prayer we will examine our faith to determine if what we have is truly real.