Keeping Christ central
A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration
Days of widespread bloodshed: 100
Percentage of the country self-identifying as Christians: 93.6%
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. As I reflect on these statistics, I can’t help but question: How do people who know the Gospel and regularly attend church take up machetes against their brothers and sisters in Christ?
This question has haunted me over the years, and I sought an answer from HOPE’s country director for the Rwanda SCA program, Erisa Mutabazi. In addition to his duties with HOPE, Erisa has served as an ordained pastor in the Anglican Church for almost three decades. He shared:
An important movement called the East Africa Revival began in Rwanda in 1929. It spread to Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya during the 1930s and 1940s. The preachers’ message focused on the severity of sin and the need for individuals to confess their sins publicly. The revival contributed to the significant growth of the church in East Africa in the 1940s through the 1970s.
However, what is extremely perplexing is that genocide was possible in Rwanda with such a large “Christian” population. How could true followers of Jesus do this to one another? I have concluded that the idea of being a Christian at that time did not mean living as a disciple who was called to a completely new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
This problem of conversions without discipleship is by no means unique to Rwanda. The country has come a long way in the past 20 years, and the local church has witnessed incredible stories of reconciliation through programs like HOPE’s savings and credit associations. But the fact that people often “convert” to Christianity without surrendering their lives to Christ compels HOPE to pursue nothing short of full discipleship in our spiritual integration efforts.
So what did Jesus say about what disciples should be and do?
- First, a disciple in the first century was a fully committed “follower.” These followers learned their master’s teaching, method of ministry, and way of life. They imitated his thoughts, actions, and habits.
- Second, in the Great Commission, Jesus called His disciples to teach others to obey everything He commanded. Conversion without commitment to total obedience is foreign to a true disciple of Christ.
- And third, disciples go to others to help them find and follow Christ. Making disciples is not a spiritual gift or a call for the spiritually “elite.” It is not just for professional Christians or the highly educated. All disciples are called to multiply.
As the global community vows “never again” in places like Rwanda, I believe one way we can fulfill that promise is by fully embracing this call to become new creations in Christ. May we boldly choose Christ as our first identity—over nation, race, political party, or religious denomination. May we seek to make disciples in whatever calling He has given us. And may we choose each day to follow God’s call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matt. 16:24).