The morning of October 2, 2006 Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself inside of West Nickle Mines Amish School. He then proceeded to murder five young girls and wounded six others before taking his own life. You probably remember the news of this tragic event. I have spoken with Amish people in that area since and there is still a very detectable and understandably sad reaction to the horrific events of that sad fall day. But it was also a hard day for Marie Roberts, wife of the gunman, and her two young children.
The next Saturday, Marie went to her husband’s funeral and it was there she and her children witnessed an amazing display of forgiveness and love as Amish families (about half of the 75 mourners there) came alongside to encourage them and extend their heartfelt compassion despite their losses. Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain, who had also attended the service was deeply moved saying, “It’s the love, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed.” And he noted Marie was also deeply moved by their love.
As 9/11’s tenth anniversary approaches, I wonder, how do you feel about Muslims now? How about someone who has said or done something very wrong towards you? Maybe it’s something a long time ago now that you have tried to bury but every now and then it seems to resurface. Well, such ill feelings are not abnormal for us nor for folks in Scripture. Remember how Jonah responded to God’s call to go to Nineveh” “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord and went down to Joppa. . .” (Jonah 1:3). Duh, trying to flee from the presence of an omnipresent God was STOOOOPID ! But in Jonah’s mind he was disgusted at what those Ninevites had done to his fellow Israelites. And when we get angry and seethe and forgiveness has not been chosen it is easy to think STOOOOPID, is it not?
Remember also Jonah’s reaction after his preaching touched off the greatest revival ever, “But it DISPLEASED Jonah EXCEEDINGLY, and he was VERY angry. And he prayed unto the Lord (bet it wasnt his best prayer either !) and said, I pray Thee,O Lord, was not this my saying when i was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish, for I knew that Thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil.” (4:1,2). Well at least his theology was correct, huh?
He knew all about God, he just refused to apply it to himself !! Hmm, maybe that’s where we go wrong too when we are offended by someone and we stew and pout and refuse to choose to forgive them. But like the Amish connected with that great tragedy, when we do choose love and forgiveness what Christlikeness and great good can be accomplished ! “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom.12:21). God can give you the grace to rise above the hurt and help you and others to heal if you choose that. What a memorial to 9/11 as God fearing Americans when we do and to Christ’s ultimate sacrifice !!