Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Forgiveness is Weird

By now you've no doubt heard about the Amish school shootings. What a tragedy. And as the father of two little girls, the profiling this murderer undertook in singling out female victims makes me shudder.

Media outlets are straining hard to play up the religious angle of this story, knowing of course that even mainstream religious folks in America find the Amish "unique," but here is something news folks will of course be puzzling over:
Rita Rose, a local nurse and midwife who delivered several children in the Amish community, told NBC’s Ann Curry that the mother of a 13-year-old girl who died has forgiven Roberts.

“She holds no ill will toward the shooter. She’s very forgiving. Christ forgave us, and we in turn forgive, and they honestly have forgiven,” she said. “Even last night, there was no anger toward the shooter.”

There's been lots of notice lately over film director Spike Lee's HBO documentary on the Katrina disaster, but one of Lee's best movies is a documentary that came out a few years ago called 4 Little Girls, about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing by white supremacists that left four little black girls dead. Lee revisits the scene, uses archival footage and old news broadcasts, tries to recapture the cultural climate of the times (it was the hotbed day and place of the Civil Rights movement, after all), and interviews witnesses. And the families of victims. At one point, some of the families speak of having forgiven the murderers. This surprises and confounds Lee, who for the most part, as in his Katrina documentary, does not intrude personally upon the footage he is shooting. But the idea that these families could forgive the murder of these little girls just blows him away.

Forgiveness can do that. That's the scandal of grace. In his message last weekend, Bill told the story of a mother who ultimately forgave the drunk driver who killed her teenage son. Not only did she find her way through anger and bitterness to forgive him, she and her husband ended up working reconciliation with the man. Her husband, who was a pastor, even presided over the man's marriage.
Can you imagine that? Essentially adopting the guy responsible for the death of your child? Performing his marriage ceremony? It's outrageous.

The world finds Christianity and Christians very weird. They think we're weird for all sorts of things, some of them justifiable and some of them not. May they always find us weird for being radical about the incredible, scandalous gift of grace God has given us. May we always be found weird for our ability to forgive those one would think unforgivable. Doing so is irrational, inconceivable, countercultural. And it glorifies God.

Back to Rita Rose, that nurse involved in that grief-stricken Amish community:
She added that the tragedy would likely strengthen the religious beliefs held by the Amish community, despite talk from outsiders that the lack of a phone or other modern amenities might have averted or cut short the tragedy.

“There’s two things that happen to your faith,” she said. “Either you let it go and get bitter, or you grow stronger — and we’ll grow stronger.”


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