From Pennsylvania: a growing lesson on forgiveness

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

The news reports about how the Amish are dealing with the recent attack by the gunman at their schoolhouse that killed five of their girls brought tears to my eyes – tears of a deeply felt hope for our civilization.

These dear people in Lancaster County, Pa., are living their religion in the face of this brutal test to their faith. Articles have told of how they are urging forgiveness for the killer. It told how they have been reaching out to the family of the attacker, the Roberts family.

A family spokesman said that a neighbor, just hours after the shooting, comforted the Roberts family and extended their forgiveness. A relative of some of the boys who were inside the schoolhouse when the gunman stormed in said of the family, "I hope they stay around here, and they'll have a lot of friends and a lot of support."

It was also reported that a grandfather of one of the victims was instructing the children to forgive, as they prepared the body of one of the girls for burial. He told the young boys, "We must not think evil of this man," according to Rev. Robert Schenck. What love that statement stirs in my heart each time I read it.

This quick and automatic response from the community brings to mind what Jesus said on the cross to those putting him to death – right in the midst of the pain and violence of that act – "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Three days later, Jesus proved by his resurrection from the dead that love and forgiveness – not the hate and evil – were victorious. The Amish seem to understand this, at least to some degree.

I can't help thinking that this community will also be blessed by their loving and forgiving attitude and trust in God. The love will help them rise above the pain and suffering and will bring them closer to God, as it did Jesus. One man from this community on CNN said simply, "There is healing in forgiveness."

This love and forgiveness helps us all pray for everyone involved, not only the innocent girls killed and those still striving to recover and their families, but for Charles Roberts IV, the attacker, and his family.

The degree of God's love that is being expressed by His children in the Amish community is sure to bring about much healing for all concerned and will draw everyone closer to God. Whereas to take on and express the same evil as the attacker – hatred, anger, and revenge – only support the evil and allows it to spread. This must be why Jesus told us to "love our enemies."

The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, an ardent follower of Jesus, had much to say about the power of forgiveness. In an article titled "Love Your Enemies," she wrote: "The good cannot lose their God, their help in times of trouble.... The best lesson of their lives is gained by crossing swords with temptation, with fear and the besetments of evil; insomuch as they thereby have tried their strength and proven it..." ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 10).

The wrong done to another will always bring suffering to the offender, until the evil is destroyed. And while Mrs. Eddy articulated the reason for loving one's enemies, she also knew that evil actions have to be accounted for. She continued, "Soon or late, your enemy will wake from his delusion to suffer for his evil intent; to find that, though thwarted, its punishment is tenfold."

It was reported that some of the members of the community, when asked what message they want to convey to the world, said, in part, "We have the richest treasure in the world and that is brotherly love." Indeed you do.

Thank you Amish, for this inspiring reminder.

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