A long blade of grass teases my skin caressing my sweat stained brow. My arm is numb while I wait for the familiar sounds of scurrying feet. All circulation from my hip to my shoulder has ceased. A prickly feeling creeps up my arm tingling right through to my itchy fingertip, which is resting on the trigger.
I follow her ignorant gait down the street through the scope of my gun.
“Easy now,” I say. “She hasn’t done anything– yet.”
This story is told by a Yugoslavian sniper. He and his comrades have surrounded Sarajevo for the sole purpose of planting terror in the hearts of the people in preparation for the city’s takeover. Pedestrians are randomly singled out and pelted with gunfire. He can’t even remember why they are at war, only that it is his sworn duty to fight.
She knows he is there. They all know. Every day he sees their panicked faces through his scope as he decides who lives and who dies.
A shot rings through the air. Everyone freezes, then dives for cover. The lone blast echoes as dust settles around the one stationary body lying prone in the dirt. Today was his day to die.
This story was relayed to my cousin on her first mission trip to Bosnia with Living on the Edge summer mission program. According to her, the war in Bosnia was a war of culture that carried on for decades. The purpose of the United Nations presence was peacekeeping.
Even after the dust settled and a tentative peace agreement was reached, UN peacekeeping troops remained in the city. It was during this emotional high that our shooter met up with his target.
“Do I know you?” he asks.
“I don’t believe so.” It was impossible for her to recognize him for she had never seen his face.
In the next moment he remembers her and is ashamed. “I don’t know why I never killed you,” he confesses.
Hours later, pale-faced and shaken, this nameless woman praises God for her protection. She offers forgiveness to the man who had every opportunity to be her executor. He does not know Jesus yet, but one day she prays he would know of the larger war that rages, the one where his soul hangs in the balance.
This story has impact. God spared that Sarajevo woman and gave her the grace to forgive a man who could have been her executor. She forgave him in hopes that one day he would discover the undeserved grace offered to him by another – God.
What incredible grace.
But God is familiar with incredible grace, isn’t He? He offered me incredible grace when he allowed His perfect Son to pay for my sin. He offered me incredible grace when he quickened my heart to respond to his love. He offered me incredible grace while I was still a sinner, walking in disobedience. He offers that same incredible grace to you through Jesus Christ.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe! You that are longing to see his face, will you this moment his grace receive? Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!
(Grace Greater Than Our Sin, by Julia H. Johnston) Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.
(Amazing grace, by John Newton)