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Community forgives family after shooter kills 10 girls

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As a child, I considered the Amish in Wisconsin to be an oddity. I’d see them wearing black clothing in their horse-drawn buggies whenever we drove to my grandparents’ home in New Glarus, Wis.

As an adult, I was impressed by the Amish for standing up for their beliefs against some pretty stiff opposition at times.

But, it was after I became a Christian that I truly admired the Amish as a special group of believers. They work hard, are often excellent craftspeople, place a high emphasis on family, and take their relationships with Jesus to the next level and beyond.

This story in Woman’s Day demonstrates a type of Christianity that often goes unnoticed in today’s “It’s all about me” society.

Titled “My Son Shot 10 Amish Girls in a Pennsylvania Schoolhouse,” Terri Roberts tells how she expected rage and calls for vengeance. After all, isn’t that what the Bible teaches — an eye for an eye?

Yet, how she was greeted actually healed an entire community.

Here’s a sample from the story about her son’s funeral that speaks to the incredible power found only in forgiveness:

I held on to my composure as our Amish guests stepped forward to express their condolences. Among the first to approach us were Chris and Rachel Miller, whose daughters, Lena and Mary Liz, had died in their arms. Murmuring a greeting to Chuck and me, they added softly, “We are so sorry for your loss.”

Sorry for our loss. I could barely choke out a response. Our son had taken the lives of their daughters. And here they were comforting us!

It was a moment of sudden, healing clarity for me. Forgiveness is a choice. The Amish had made that very clear, but now I knew what it meant: Forgiveness isn’t a feeling.

These sweet parents were as grief-stricken as I was, their hearts broken like mine. I did not have to stop feeling anger, hurt and utter bewilderment at the horrific decisions Charlie had made. I only had to make a choice: to forgive.

And I understood the other part of what the Amish had said: If we cannot forgive, how can we be forgiven?

That’s not religion! That’s true, genuine Christianity.

Jesus set the bar high in how we are to forgive others, and sometimes that bar seems impossibly high. But, the response is up to us. Do we avenge or forgive?

The Amish response was much different in comparison to another story I posted a few weeks ago about a church in Iowa that sat by idly, and may have even supported the action, as a man was sentenced to 16 years in prison for taking down a church flag and burning it.

As I read this powerful story of Amish forgiveness, I was reminded of Jesus’ own words in Luke 6:27-37:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Want to be an #ImpactChristian? It often starts with forgiveness.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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