I am sure we were all moved by the expressions of compassion and forgiveness by the Amish toward the man who cruelly murdered five innocent Amish girls and seriously wounded five others. I could not help but contrast the reaction of the Amish Christians with the reaction of the Conservative Christians in Washington after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
After the World Trade Center attacks there were no expressions of compassion, there was no desire to reach out to the terrorists or their families and understand what had driven them to do such terrible acts. There were no thoughts of compassion. The Western way of life had been challenged, and our leaders wanted to hear none of it. There was only the desire for punishment and retribution. Their God it seems, is an angry and vengeful God.
By contrast, many of the Amish in Pennsylvania spoke of the need to forgive the killer of their children. The family of one of the dead children visited the killer’s family just hours after the incident. They came to the door and said, “We forgive you.” I found myself wondering, “How many of us could do that if someone had cruelly murdered one of our children?” The Amish elders formed a charity fund not only to help the victims’ families but to also help the gunman’s widow and her three children. One Amish man said, “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts also.”
One area resident (who is not Amish) said, “This is imitation of Christ at its most naked. If anybody is going to turn the other cheek in our society, it’s going to be the Amish.” He continued, “I don’t want to denigrate anybody else who says they’re imitating Christ, but the Amish walk the walk as much as they talk the talk.”
Dwight Lefever, a Roberts (the killer’s) family spokesman talked at a community prayer service a few days after the murders. He said he was at the home of Roberts’ father when an Amish neighbor came to comfort the family. “He stood there for an hour, and he held that man in his arms, and he said, ‘We will forgive you,” Lefever said. “He extended the hope of forgiveness that we all need these days.”
I cannot help but wonder what our world would be like today if we had an Amish Christian as President when 9/11 happened. Maybe 9/11 would never have happened at all.
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