What is forgiveness when the face of evil stares us straight at us? Given last week it is a question we are forced to ask.
In NZ, a single gunman opened fire in a Mosque killing fifty people and in Sao Paulo two hooded gun men opened fire in a public school killing eight people before turning the guns on themselves. Evil is a present reality. and it is so difficult to know how to respond.
You may remember the story from a several years back of the sad shooting in an Amish schoolhouse in the US. In that incident, the gunman took the lives of five Amish girls and injured five others. It was tragic moment where the life of these simple Amish folk became international news.
The simple, 18th century lifestyle of the Amish is quite out-of-place in our modern age. Yet, their unique, genuine and deep faith in God shone through the media coverage.
Almost instantly after the killings, the parents offered forgiveness to the killer. What is more, with care for the families of those killed and wounded, they set up a fund for the families of the other victims. Then, in an even great act of graciousness, they set up a fund for the family of the man who committed the murders.
Not surprisingly, their acts confused many in the media. Consistently, the Amish explained how they were inspired by Jesus and his command to forgive those who hurt you. Then, in an act of great compassion, one Amish man wrapped his arms around the killer’s father. With great compassion he comforts him saying, “We forgive you!”
we forgive you!
It is interesting to read their 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, our 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.”
Through their Christ-like response to this tragic event, the Amish demonstrated something of Jesus’ love. They modelled 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 a great example to us all. In many ways they demonstrated how God can be at work in our hearts even in the very toughest of trials.
In the context of weeks events, when evil stares us in the face, their example of forgiveness is profound. Their faith shows how a tragic event can become a witness to God’s love and his way of living in the world.
Stephen L Baxter
This is a modified version of a previous post Trusting God, Forgiving Others