You may remember the story a few years back of the sad shooting in an Amish schoolhouse in the US that took the lives of five Amish girls and injured five others. With this tragic event the life of these simple Amish folk for a moment became international news.
The simple, 18th century lifestyle of the Amish seems quite strange in our modern age of conveniences and comforts. Yet their unique, genuine and deep faith in God shone through the media coverage.
Almost instantly after the killings they offered forgiveness to the killer and established funds not only for the families of those killed and wounded, but also for the family of the man who committed the murders.
Consistently the Amish have explained that their motivation has come from Jesus’ command to forgive those who hurt you. One Amish man wrapped his arms around the killer’s father and tried to comfort him in his grief saying, “We forgive you!”
It is interesting to read the comments reported in the media:
“We’re really strongly taught to forgive like Jesus did. We forgive the way Christ forgives us.”
“You need to go on and just trust. God will take care of us.”
“We think it was God’s plan, and we’re going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going. A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter. The children are better off than their survivors.”
“We need to go through trials to strengthen our faith. We need to accept it. There is no other way we can go on.”
As the injured girls began to recover some incredible stories started to be told. One was an interaction leading up to the shooting where the oldest girl in the school, 13 year old Marian Fisher, pleaded with the gunman, saying, “Shoot me and leave the others alone.”
Through their Christ-like response to this tragic event, the Amish demonstrated something of Jesus’ love and forgiveness to a world they normally withdraw from. Even in the midst of their own grief they turned media attention away from themselves and toward God.
Their humble trust is an example to us all. They showed how to allow God to be at work in our hearts in the very toughest of trials. They showed how a tragic event can become a witness to God’s love.
It is good for us to take hope and inspiration from their example. It helps remind us that no matter what we might be going through there is always a way to continue to trust in God and his goodness.
Stephen L Baxter