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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Do You Hold a Grudge?

 On October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA, and shot 10 young Amish girls. Charles Roberts, 32, a non-Amish milkman known to the children, shot the girls and then killed himself. Five of the girls died; the other five were seriously injured.

This shocking violence caused great anguish to the Amish Community. But, they did the unimaginable and chose to forgive their children’s killer within hours of the tragedy. While their hearts were broken, they expressed tangible acts of love and kindness for the gunman’s family. They didn’t just talk the talk; they walked the walk of forgiveness. They let go of nursing grudges and seized the opportunity to make their faith real.

Ida, a mother who lost her daughter in this tragedy, did not forgive easily. In “Amish Grace,” a fictionalized account of this horrific event, Ida accuses her husband of making their daughter’s life and death cheap by his “easy forgiveness.” He responds, “faith when everything is the way you want it is not true faith. It is only when our lives fall apart that we have the chance to make our faith real.” He encourages his younger daughter who also struggles with unforgiveness. “Forgiveness comes from an open heart. And it comes without condition, or it doesn't come at all. Hate will eat up your whole heart.”

I’m reminded of another story of making faith real.

During Nazi occupations in Holland, Corrie Ten Boom and her family were sent to a concentration camp for hiding Jews. Millions of people were tortured, raped, and brutally killed. Guards enjoyed seeing the horror and humiliation. Corrie came to hate the guard who mocked and sneered at their naked bodies when the women were taken to the showers. His mocking face was branded in her memory. Corrie’s sister, Betsy, succumbed to the abuse and died, but Corrie survived and promised never to return to Germany.


Many years later, Corrie did return for a speaking engagement and she taught on forgiveness. To her shock, the same guard was sitting in the church. He could never have recognized Corrie as one of the sick, shaved, and nearly starved prisoners in his camp. His radiant face suggested that he had since become a believer. After the talk, the guard approached her. With a smiling face he extended his hand and said, ‘Ah, dear sister Corrie, isn't it wonderful how God forgives?’


At that moment, all the hatred surged up in Corrie-the grief of a thousand wrongs for the evil he had done to her and her beloved sister. Suddenly the Lord said, ‘Corrie, put out your hand.’ This was the hardest step of obedience Corrie had ever faced, but she put out her hand. After that act of submission, she testified: ‘I felt something almost like warm oil being poured over me. And with it came the unmistakable message: Well done, Corrie. That’s how my children behave. Since that moment, the hate was totally gone.

Forgiveness does not mean there are no consequences to evil actions. Only God has the right to judge. (Psalm 35:1) “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge; I will pay them back," says the LORD. (Romans 12:19)  Will we forgo vengeance and trust God? 

I’m moved to believe God fully expects human beings to love and forgive each other­­­­~even their enemies. (Ephesians 4:32) Sincerely walking in forgiveness, which is not an easy path, we stretch and mature, becoming more like Jesus. It’s the only way to live abundantly with inner peace and hope.

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2 comments:

  1. Powerful Pam. Wow, this was beautiful and so meaningful. The power to forgive, that can be a challenge. I couldn't place myself in the shoes of those parents, little alone have the power to forgive. You can carry heavy burdens though, in the heart and soul. When you see the forgiveness in God and Jesus, it puts it into perspective doesn't it Pam. I'd rather be like God and Jesus then anyone. We've all made mistakes and we come to the Lord for forgiveness. If he can forgive us, we must have the power to forgive others. So powerful Pam, truly an eye opener.

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  2. wow! thank you so much
    I really enjoyed this article

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