OPENING ACTIVITY: Extravagant Love Defined
Write the words Extravagant Love on a board or sheet of newsprint. Ask students to describe what this means and to share some examples of how they’ve seen it expressed. Summarize their answers on the board or newsprint. One description of it could be expressing love without restraint or consideration of the cost. For example, it’s a person making a significant sacrifice of time or possessions to do something special for someone else, or it’s a person who sacrifices his or her life to save the life of another.
This week’s story will note how one family expressed extravagant love toward someone who harmed them in a significant and tragic way.
OPENING STORY: [Read the story aloud or make copies and pass them around.]
FORGIVING THE PEOPLE WHO MURDERED YOUR FAMILY
Patricia Heaton, the actress who played Debra Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond and Frances Heck in The Middle, was recently overcome with emotion after meeting Madrine, a Rwandan woman who expressed extravagant love by totally forgiving the man who slaughtered her family.
Callixte and Andrew were good friends as they were growing up in Rwanda. But they were also from different tribes. Callixte was a Hutu; Andrew, Madrine’s husband, was a Tutsi. When the Rwandan genocide broke out in 1994 and the government-backed Hutu tribe began murdering Tutsi people, Callixte became part of a mob that murdered many members of Madrine’s family.
Callixte was subsequently imprisoned 13 years for the part he played in the murders, and Andrew admits that while Callixte was in prison that he hated him. “I hated him. My wife hated his wife, our children hated their children.”
But something changed in Callixte’s heart while he was wallowing in prison. He says that he started experiencing regret for his heinous crimes and began seeking forgiveness from the Lord for what he’d done. “I spent a lot of time in grief,” he said regarding this time. “I repented to God for my sins.”
Something was changing in the hearts of Madrine and Callixte’s wife, Marcella, as well. Madrine says, “God touched my heart one day, and I felt I had to take a step to reach out to her.” Marcella felt a similar tug. “We went to church and heard the pastor preach. It was as if the pastor was talking to us,” she said when giving her account of what happened. “He looked right into our hearts. After church we said, ‘We have got to talk.’ ” They did. And afterward, in 2010, they got back together. As Marcella noted, “Since then, we have been very close.”
After Callixte’s release from prison, Andrew was able to forgive him as well, something a writer noted was “an impossible feat made possible only by the love and grace of the Lord Jesus.” The two families have since developed a deep friendship and a decade later, two of the families’ children are engaged, and the rest are good friends.
Heaton, a committed Christian, was inspired when she met Andrew, heard the story of the families’ tragic past, and saw the results of the forgiveness they were able to express decades later. “When I walked into the house and saw them all sitting there together, Andrew took my hand. I looked into his eyes and just the love that was coming off of him. The peace, the joy, that was radiating off him—I thought, this is what God can do when we allow him to help us forgive people.”
As one writer noted, this story is “an astonishing tale of God’s love and forgiveness being expressed in the most horrific of circumstances.”
Now ask your students to form small groups to discuss their answers to these questions.
- How is showing extraordinary forgiveness one way we can express extravagant love for Jesus?
- What are some other ways we can express extravagant love for Jesus?
- Why is it important to show extravagant love for Jesus? For example, how do we or others benefit when we do?