Jill Saward died yesterday. The death of a 51 year old woman dominated the news, because of the way that God enabled her to deal with rape. You can read the details of her case here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38522714
There were two aspects of Jill Saward's life that the BBC news focused on. The first was her tireless campaigning for the victims of rape.
Her pain was made far greater by the way that the press published so many details of the case (including a photo of her with merely her eyes blacked out in The Sun) that it was relatively easy to work out who she was. This was compounded by the judge in summing up saying her trauma "had not been so great", when compared the depth of sorrow expressed by the men who raped her. Men who then received shorter sentences than the man found guilty of the burglary that went on at the same time.
Driven by her determination that others should not be made to suffer as she did, she bravely waived her anonymity and started to publicly fight for the protection of rape victims.
What was even more extraordinary was the second aspect of her case highlighted by the BBC. The way that her Christian faith had led her to forgive her attackers.
Saward talked about her determination to go to church with a group of friends shortly after the attack. She wasn't going to let these men rob her of time spent with her God. It was humbling to hear how, with her very public suffering, she didn't seek to hide away from God's people, but come amongst them to experience His love and grace.
During their time together they simply prayed the Lord's prayer. She found herself coming to words that often trip off our tongues without giving them so much as a second thought:
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
In the interview she said that she was struck that if she wanted her sins forgiven, whatever they are, then she had to forgive the men who had raped her.
This is the uniqueness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That a woman who has been raped can still admit that she need forgiveness from God and not be totally consumed by justifiable self-pity.
That a woman who has been raped can offer forgiveness to men who have done nothing to deserve it. That is grace.
That a woman who has been raped can find healing in knowing that she has been forgiven and loved by the God who gave his only son for her. That freedom comes not from knowing that justice has been done or revenge has been taken. But rather freedom comes from being enabled, in the midst of your sorrow, to let go of your bitterness towards the people who have caused you such pain. Because you are so loved and forgiven.
Jill Saward truly followed in the footsteps of her Saviour who, as he has was being crucified, prayed for his executioners: “Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Let's remember that the next time we pray the Lord's Prayer.