An excellent two-hour American Experience documentary on the sect aired the other night and I watched casually, until the part that dealt with the shooting of 10 Amish schoolgirls in Pennsylvania. Five died.
If that was shocking, and it was, the Amish response to the shooting riveted me.
It was all about forgiveness.
It began the night of the shooting, when Amish neighbors visited the killer’s family.
“We forgive you,” the Amish told the killer’s family. “We forgive you.”
“Grace walked in the door that night. And with grace, hope also walked in the door.” That’s what the pastor to the family of the killer (the killer’s name is Charles) said about it.
Here’s what the mother of one of the murdered children said:
When I think of forgiving it doesn’ t mean that you’ve forgotten what he’s done….but it means that you have released unto God the one who has offended you and you have given up your right to seek revenge. I placed the situation in God’s hands and just accept that this is the way it was and I choose not to hold it against Charles because it really doesn’t help me any, anyway.
More than 30 Amish, including the parents of several dead victims, attended the killer’s funeral.
The father of one of the murdered girls said this:
And I came home from the burial thinking so thankful to God that I don’t need to make a judgment on his soul. There was just a wash of peace, like unloading baggage Wow, I don’t need to deal with this. This is God’s territory.
Someone else on the film said this:
Forgiveness requires giving something up. Giving up your right to revenge, feelings of bitterness, however you define it.
This is the best example I’ve ever seen of living forgiveness and understanding what the Divine asks of us.
We live in a world driven by human judgment and revenge. We don’t often get to see love and forgiveness as a way of life. The Amish may dress in old-fashioned attire and hew to a more primitive way of life by our standards. But they sure seem more evolved and progressive than the rest of us. I’m grateful for this reminder that there are people in the world who live God’s grace every day, even in the most difficult of situations.
Because, really, that’s when it counts most.