Mom, Dad, tell him to stop bugging me!
Can’t you get along?
“He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In front of twenty-five horrified pupils, thirty-two-year-old Charles Roberts ordered the boys and the teacher to leave. After tying the legs of the ten remaining girls, Roberts opened fire on all of them, killing five and leaving the others critically wounded. He then shot himself as police stormed the building. His motivation? “I’m angry at God for taking my little daughter,” he told the children before the massacre.
The story captured the attention of broadcast and print media in the United States and around the world. By Tuesday morning some fifty-television crews had clogged the small village of Nickel Mines, staying for five days until the killer and the killed were buried.
The blood was barely dry on the schoolhouse floor when Amish parents brought words of forgiveness to the family of the one who had slain their children. The outside world was incredulous that such forgiveness could be offered so quickly for such a heinous crime.
Three weeks after the shooting, “Amish forgiveness” had appeared in 2,900 news stories worldwide and on 534,000 web sites.
Fresh from the funerals where they had buried their own children, grieving Amish families accounted for half of the seventy-five people who attended the killer’s burial. Roberts’ widow was deeply moved by their presence as Amish families greeted her and her three children. The forgiveness went beyond talk and graveside presence: the Amish also supported a fund for the shooter’s family.
Today we are presented with the gift of forgiveness. As the family of God we are offered this wonderful gift, this chance, and not just once, but over and over. Jesus did become the source of salvation to all who obey Him, and the words we must obey, as the family of God, are to forgive. We are to forgive as the Amish did.
Next week the crowds will greet Jesus with adulation, and we will strike the cross with our sins. We will then hear Jesus say clearly: “Father forgive them…” for no sin is so great that it cannot be overcome by His love. Let us stand in awe – and always remember that regardless the burden, God’s heart is open to us.