The Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania were not expecting nor did they deserve to be thrown into the world’s spot light in recent days. The bloody horror of that day in the Nickel Mines school house will live with us for many years but the response of this almost naïve exclusive group of Christians should reverberate around our world for even longer. This qauint and spirituality eccentric people have shown a dignity and Godly strength that transcends these times we live in.
Within hours of the shooting dead of five of their precious children, Amish leaders had visited the wife of the murderer, Charles Carl Roberts IV to extend forgiveness. They even attended the murderer’s funeral. This is not the normal way of things. It is a grace that is not of this world. There are even those on the internet who would claim that the Amish have not quite got their Christianity correct. Yet, this believing community is doing what they say they believe. “Jesus is about forgiveness and so we have to learn to forgive.” It seems so obvious. It must be incredibly difficult. They believe God will give them the strength.
This all takes place in a tiny community in the middle of a nation that has responded very differently to its’ children being murdered. The Amish shows an opposite response to the American government after 9/11. Surely it would have been easier for them to rage against those outsiders who entered their antiquated safe tranquility to murder their loved ones and to launch a war against mass murderers. Easier was never the way of the Gospel of Jesus. And the last words on his lips were “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Forgiveness for those who did not even know they had need of repentance is Jesus model for us to follow. It might not make sense but it changes the world in ways that revenge never has.
Sadly, it took more innocent murders for this bright light to shine out from the hills of Pennsylvannia. Will the darkness understand it?