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Forgiveness vs Forgiven-Ness

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By EWMI - Posted on 07 October 2006

by Albert Persohn
It may be one of the worst news stories of all time. Charles Roberts lay siege to an Amish school in Pennsylvania. He released the boys and killed Naomi Rose Ebersole 7, Marian Fisher 13, Mary Liz Miller 8, Lena Miller 7 and Anna Mae Stoltzfus 12. In the middle of these utterly terrible events we have seen the beauty and the power of pure Christianity.It may be one of the worst news stories of all time. Charles Roberts lay siege to an Amish school in Pennsylvania. He released the boys and killed Naomi Rose Ebersole 7, Marian Fisher 13, Mary Liz Miller 8, Lena Miller 7 and Anna Mae Stoltzfus 12. In the middle of these utterly terrible events we have seen the beauty and the power of pure Christianity.The details of the killing and the siege are everywhere. The purpose of this article is not to draw our attention to that part of the story. Instead we need to observe the words spoken by Marian Fisher. Following is a quote from the Internet edition of ABC News:

Oct. 5, 2006 — The oldest of the five Amish girls shot dead in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse is said to have stepped forward and asked her killer to "Shoot me first," in an apparent effort to buy time for her schoolmates.

And later:

What's more, Fisher's 11-year-old sister, Barbie, who survived the shooting, allegedly asked the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to "Shoot me second,"

Here is the link to the full article:

Great American Hero

We have all been fed on hero movies. We have repeatedly watched people take a bullet for their friends. Perhaps this may prepare us to do the same. We may have seen Bruce Willis in Armageddon willing die for the planet and wondered if we could. Who knows? In over twenty five years of pastoral experience in the church as well as the community I have seen far more cowardice than courage. Usually when the heat is on people “chicken out”.

Amish children do not have television. They do not visit the cinema. It is likely that they don’t know who Bruce Willis or John Wayne is. From whence cometh their courage? Only someone who knows of the everlasting arms of their Lord and Savior would speak so freely at such a time.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

Forgiveness and Forgiven-Ness

The picture of pure Christianity does not end there. The Amish community had lost five of their girls. The killings were brutal and senseless. The killers’ paraphernalia revealed that he intended to inflict great evil on his victims. This did not transpire. The Amish community did not respond with rage. No riots. No repercussions. Instead they visited and comforted the killers’ widow and his family. They invited her to the funeral. They have invited her to stay in the community and promised to help her.

The one who is forgiven has received forgiveness. It is a nice word but weakened with overuse. “Oh, I can just live any way I want because I am forgiven.” It is a tragedy that we have minimized the power of this in our lives. Those who truly understand forgiveness live in forgiven-ness. They say, “If I am forgiven, my solemn duty is to do the same.” The one living in forgiven-ness has abandoned all sense of spiritual debt. No one owes him and he owes no one apart from the Lord Jesus.

We live in a revenge-sickened society. Getting even has become the engine of our economy and our entertainment. It is bringing nothing noble and nothing good. It would do us well to learn again the principles of a simple faith from a pure hearted people.

For I know that my redeemer liveth Job 19:25a

Mick's picture

Thank you for giving us your beautiful perspective on a tragic theme.

As I have thought about this story of tragedy, their forgiveness and the bravery of the young girls, I thought of Jesus words, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (MT 18.3-6)

It is amazing what we can learn from children whose minds are not polluted by contemporary western culture. They are other centered and not self-centered. Their minds are filled with the things a God centered culture rather than a materialistic culture. I admit I am probably overly romanticizing their response. I admit there are elements of the Amish culture I adnire and I believe are firmly planted in the culture God defines in the Bible. I hope children and/or my I would muster such courage and love in the face such terror.

I think Brian McLaren may have been wrong when his character Neo said, “Gosh, maybe a hundred years from now, the descendants of my fellow evangelicals today will be like the Amish of tomorrow, but instead of maintaining 1850’s German Culture, they will perpetuate 1950’s American culture.” The context of this quote was accepting people without accepting their sin; allowing people to grow into the image of Christ. He seemed to imply, though, the Amish had little to offer modern culture. I think this example shows us they do have something to offer in the current conversation.

Mickey E. Denen

Virgil's picture

Al - some powerful words. It really helps us to meditate on these events and look at the awesome example the Amish are laying out for us. I ran across another article that is dealing with these same issues:

What the Amish are Teaching America

I wish I was half the Christian these people are...

davo's picture

Yes Al, actions really do speak louder than words.


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