Forgiveness–the Mightiest Sword

Dear Friends,

 On Oct. 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV barged into an Amish one-room school house in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania brandishing a gun. His ensuing shooting spree killed five girls, age 6 to 13. To finish off, he took his own life.

That very day, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls warned some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, “We must not think evil of this man.”  Another Amish father said, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.” Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.”

Hours after the shooting, an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family, extending forgiveness. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts’ widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts’ sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts’ funeral. A short time after the shooting, the Amish set up a charitable fund for the Roberts family.  

These are snapshots of forgiveness.

I’m a big advocate of all forms of justice—social justice (take that, Glen Beck!), distributive justice, procedural justice, and even retributive justice. On the latter, I recently co-wrote a book called A Deep but Dazzling Darkness, which presents a case for the increasingly unpopular notion that God will actually punish the wicked (I break into a micro-sweat even writing that, so acute is my awareness of some people’s reactivity.). What I mean to say is that I have a solid appreciation for God’s wrath and the constellation of traits that accompany it. Without divine retributive justice, the gospel message loses tone and vigor.

But when I read stories like the one above, I vow never to become such a justice junkie that I forget the point of justice—that in our case, God averted it. By taking our due Himself, He justly forgave the human race. He absorbed the pain, embraced it even, and then disposed of His right to pass it on. Likewise He calls us to embrace the Cross of pain and release our “right” to exact revenge. The Greek word for “forgiveness” means “to send away.” I love that analogy. When my ruminations begin to boil over with a never-ending litany of wrongs suffered I purposely, consciously, “send away” the revenge my natural heart craves. And it’s a blessed relief.

Someone said that to bear a grudge is to drink poison hoping to kill someone else. For those who long to “send away” some wrong suffered, I’ve developed a worksheet I’d be happy to email to you. Just respond to this email and let me know. Let me close with some poignant words from the musical Jane Eyre:

We must not hold a grudge
We must learn to endure
Then as God is your judge
At least your heart will be pure

When they bruise you with words
When they make you feel small
When it’s hardest to bear
You must do nothing at all

Forgiveness, is the mightiest sword
Forgiveness, for those you fear will be your greatest reward

This month:

May 8, 11AM- Concert, Venice, FL
May 8, 7PM- Concert, Bradenton, FL
May 15, 7:30- Concert, Hamburg, PA
May 28- June 6- Concert tour with Alison Brook, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Be well!


4 thoughts on “Forgiveness–the Mightiest Sword

  1. Carolyn Drollinger Reply

    I’d like to have the worksheet you mention. God has blessed me with really oily feathers, but perhaps I can share it with a friend who is really struggling w/ the idea of forgiving

  2. ourania rossetos Reply

    i am interested in your forgiveness worksheet. i will look forward to receiving this.
    thank you!

  3. Mike Bender Reply

    This was an amazing lesson in the true aspect of forgiveness.

    The natural human response is to wish for retribution. The Amish in this instance stepped forward and showed the true character of Jesus and His Father.

    There was a movie made on this, I watched it only a few months ago. It approached it delicately and I felt it was quite respectful to all involved. I don’t know that there was one mother who had a difficult time as was depicted in the movie, but if so, it was fully understandable and it did an excellent job of displaying the normal reaction.

    I was impressed with that movie. I viewed it only because a casual acquaintance asked me what I thought of it. He peaked my curiosity and I managed to rent it.

    Forgiveness is truly like a sword, only it does not destroy. Perhaps one might liken forgiveness to a sharp object that lets the air out of a balloon. Imagine a person, inflated with anger and vengeance like a balloon filled to the bursting point. Forgiveness deflates a tense situation and restores order.

  4. Jennifer Jill Schwirzer Post authorReply

    I’ll have to check out that movie. I love the sword analogy for forgiveness. That’s awesome.

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