The events in Lancaster County, PA this week were as gruesome as one can witness. A deranged man took ten Amish elementary school girls hostage, ties them up with plans on molesting them. But police arrived sooner than he expected and he quickly shot all of them in the head, execution style, before he killed himself. Five of the girls are dead and the others are in the hospital.
Throughout this week my heart has broken for those little girls and their family and friends. How could someone do this to such innocent young girls, no matter how deep their pain? What a world we live in!
But as much as I have grieved through this tragedy, Iâ€™ve also been wonderfully uplifted by the demonstration of Godâ€™s forgiveness that this community is demonstrating to the world. As Iâ€™ve watched news reports about them and heard them talk, this does not sound like forgiveness-as-denial and a false covering for pain, but a real desire to find the way of Jesus to be real even in a tragedy as crushing as this one. They have even reached out to the family of the man who killed their children, offering forgiveness and help to them. Can you think of any similar situation where youâ€™ve had the opportunity to even consider the pain that the family of the perpetrator are going through as well? Theyâ€™ve helped me pray there too!
I have been in Lancaster County a number of times and seen the Amish farms there. When I see their horse-drawn carriages and farm equipment, I canâ€™t help but wonder what kind of legalistic time warp they got trapped in. While it allows them to live simple, family-centered lives, how relevant can they be to the world around them?
It turns out extraordinarily relevant when you consider the conflicts of our world where anger and rage fester and grow generation after generation until the only solution they can see is to seek out ever-grander schemes of death and destruction. As these Amish brothers and sisters have struggled with what it means to walk in forgiveness even before the emotions of their own loss have had time to settle, I have been freshly encouraged and challenged myself to embrace forgiveness in my own life so deeply and so immediately. I have been brought to tears numerous times watching the news as they talk of what it means to forgive and act on it with such conviction.
And in doing so they have demonstrated more of life and reality of Jesus in our world than anything else Iâ€™ve seen in the media this year. May God grant them great grace and comfort in this season and to the family of the killer as well.