On Sunday night I watched “Amish Grace” and cried my way through it —tissues are a must have for this film.   For those unfamiliar with the film, it depicts the true story of the 2007 Nickel Mine shootings  in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where 10 Amish school girls are shot, killing 5 of them.   The film does fictionalise some parts and characters, however the true message is not lost — one of forgiveness.  In the case of the Nickel Mine shootings, the Amish community forgave the man who killed their daughters and rallied around the wife of the shooter to provide her with comfort and support.

The message is clear, hatred and angry (on a large or small scale) only eats away at us, in the end destroying us — no matter what happens, we should always forgive and trust fully in the Lord to provide all the strength that we need in giving that forgiveness.  I can't help but think, when watching this film, of the following question: "what would I do in that same situation"? I could never imagine how hard it would be when losing a child in such hideous fashion, to forgive the perpetrator so quickly. 

However it doesn't take long in searching the scriptures to find the verses that tell me to do just that — forgive our enemies, including praying for them despite how they treat you.   Incredible strength would be required, however the Lord knows this and provides.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:55-45

But love ye your enemies, and do good , and lend , hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Luke 6:35-37

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against even any: as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Colossians 3:13

I certainly struggle to forgive small things at times, but as the scriptures are my instructions in life, this is something I need to work on.  Because, perhaps one day, I may have to forgive someone for something much much bigger.

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  1. Forgiveness is certainly not an easy one when we feel we have been wronged; but when we forgive for something that has hurt us in a major way, it brings release from that hurt and makes it easier to move on and begin the business of forgetting. Whilever we harbour anger or bitterness, it is impossible to either forgive OR forget. And you're right, forgiveness comes from the Lord - He alone gives us the power to forgive. I can attest to the healing power of forgiveness from both sides.
    'Amish Grace' sounds like a very interesting movie.

  2. Jo, I bought the dvd and watched it on Friday and cried so hard my eyes were swollen red. I was moved, deeply, to look at my own soul and seek out who I might need to forgive. I have had tragedy concerning my children and the pain, at times, still overwhelms. God is gracious and through Him I have overcome much sorrow. I knew this film would be a mix of sadness and victory but was surprised at how much the Lord used it for my good :-) I was going to blog about it too-thank you for this wise and beautiful post. blessings..Trish

  3. I don't know if I could stand to watch it. When I think of children being hurt it is almost too much to bear. Forgiveness is something that I feel like I have been working on my whole life. I was abused by a close relative as a child and it has taken all of my life since (over 30 years) to forgive him. If you had asked me even 10 years ago if that would ever happen, I would have said no. But just being willing to allow God to work in that part of my life has done amazing things. Applying forgiveness in other areas of my life is still a work in progress. I hope that it is something I will get better at, as I continue to allow God to move and work in my life. I remember when this tragedy occurred--we were living in the US then. It has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, especially since becoming a parent, of the level of forgiveness that is possible when we choose to act as Christ has taught us.

  4. Bonnie - I was relucent to watch this film as I knew it was going to be sad. However it is made for Christian TV so there is no visual violence and done in a very careful and tasteful manner. It is difficult to watch but so positive and powerful, there wasn’t a point where I wanted to turn it off and say “no more”, these Amish people were amazing and a lesson to us all on forgiveness. I watched it alone so could burst into tears without anyone seeing me!

    After watching it I Googled to see what happened to the remaining 5 girls who survived — this part is tragic as 1 of the girls is severally brain damaged and another one also in a bad way.

    Trish - like you I was sobbing by the end. I particularly like the focus on the wife of the killer, a perspective rarely looked at — as much a victim as the others, with so much grief and sadness for what had happened. It gave real insight into what it must be like for people in her siutation.

  5. I never understood how the Amish could forgive this man, when obviously God has not forgiven him. I mean, he took 4 lives and killed himself -- never repenting.

    What right do we or anybody else have in forgiving somebody for taking somebody else's life?

    This is between the murderer and God. In this case, there was no repentance, as far as I can tell, and so God has not forgiven him.

    I can see being open to forgiving somebody even a heinous offense if there is repentance, but when somebody takes somebody else's life, I don't see where Biblically we have the right to forgive this.

    We can pray that God will forgive such a one (which implies that God will draw him to repentance), like Jesus did on the cross ("Father forgive them..." not "I forgive them..."), or like Stephen did ("Lord, lay not this sin to their charge," not "Lord I forgive them.).

    But with the case in point in the movie, the person, it seems, did not repent, but killed himself. No human has the right to forgive this. A court of law would still condemn such a man, even though the families "forgave."

    As for the wife of the murderer, yes, it was good that the Amish people comforted her. She had nothing to do with this crime, but, as far as I remember, tried to stop it.

    In the case of the woman molested, above, no, if they have not repented, she is not required to forgive. However, she is to be open to forgiveness should there be repentance. She does need to work through things so that she is not bitter and revengeful.

    This is Biblical. Where there is no repentance, there can be no true forgiveness and restoration. Matthew 18.

    Thanks for letting me comment.

  6. Mary R - A thought comes to mind after reading your comment - before we asked for forgiveness, God sent Jesus (Rom 5 v 10 and 11). It is true that "forgiveness" in the sense of all guilt etc. being released is conditioned on repentance/confession (Luke 17:3, 1 John 1:9 etc). But the NT also uses another word (charizomai, from charis, grace) translated "forgiving" in Eph 4:32, Col 3:13 etc), where it is unconditionally showing grace as God unconditionally showed grace to us. Sometimes also people use "forgive" when they mean not holding a grudge or holding onto bitterness. So it might depend on what people mean when they say they "forgive"...

  7. Yes Jo, I also was so sad for the wife who's life was torn open by what her husband did. It broke my heart. Even writing this I'm tearing up at all the sorrow everyone endured. I found myself looking at the man in pity as his actions were also grief driven. Anger and violence often ride the same beast as depression and grief. What he did was evil but I am not his ultimate judge.
    I believe that mercy and forgiveness are 2 virtues that cannot be separated. We are called to be vessels of mercy! "The letter of the Law killeth". The Spirit says FORGIVE and be merciful. Only through God's grace, can we do this :-) Trish

  8. This was certainly a lesson for all of us - knowing that the Amish families were so forgiving in spite of thier grief - we should all strive to be as forgiving in our own lives. Such a tragedy - but you - Jo - have shared with all of us that there is a better way to live - forgiveness is the only way to live with true heartache.


  9. This is one of my favorite movies. I would love to read the book.

    I like the part where the young Amish father talks about how forgiveness is not a pardon. That is so true, forgiving doesn't mean what was done was okay, it just means you trust God to deal with the person and you release it.

    I once read a quote on a blog and even quoted it on mine once...."

    Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.

    The Scriptures you provided are wonderful, we *are* commanded to forgive, it is Biblical.

  10. Just a thought here in response to Mary R's comment...

    My comment relates to the following verses:
    Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
    (Matthew 18:21-22)

    If Peter was asking about a brother repeatedly sinning against him, that does not sound like a repentant brother - a truly repentant brother would not continue to sin in this way against his brother. The Lord doesn't suggest Peter wait for repentance, but instead suggests that Peter should go on forgiving over and over.

    Another thought - we are told to pray for those who despitefully use us, and to love our enemies - we could not really pray for people from our heart and truly mean it if we have not forgiven them in our heart. Harbouring an unforgiving spirit does not lend itself towards love or mercy.

  11. If we take the Lord's Prayer - 'And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.' we must note carefully the words. We ask God to forgive us for the things we have done. This is the prayer of a saved person, one who is confessing that despite salvation, we sin, and we seek forgiveness. Then the prayer states as we forgive our debtors. Not our debtor's debts. The forgiveness is for the person. Forgiveness is nothing to do with the sin itself. We cannot condone sin, and no Bible verse has that intent. However, it does say quite a bit about how we treat a fellow Christian who has sinned, or a sinner who has it against us. God does not specify the sin. Murder, and lying are both sins. Both can have devastating effects, one though is usually emotional, the other physical and emotional - you can see a murder.
    It is interesting that forgiveness is actually for you - so God forgives you. It is about your own state of mind, and spirit. A person who cannot forgive has a high chance of becoming bitter towards someone, have a disquietened spirit, that can never be at peace, even with God.
    I don't think the Amish in any sense forgave the sin, but the sinner, who never knew he was being forgiven. How God judges him at the great white throne is not our business, but the Bible is clear that dying unrepentant leads to the lake of fire. Therefore, the Amish forgiveness does not alter God's justice. However, it makes them (the Amish) or us in our situation right with God. We can't save someone else, but we need to be mindful of our own relationship with Him. The Lord's prayer teaches us some interesting lessons, as does the verses in today's blog. Hard lessons indeed. LL S

  12. Jo, thank you for bringing this movie to my attention. I will have to look out for it. Is it in the DVD rental stores yet? Or just for sale?

    I think Stephen answered the forgiveness issue very well. I would think we don't have any option but to forgive, as hard as it is at times. And it can be a process, not an instant thing. It really is for our own benefit too... If we want Him to forgive us, we must forgive others, pure and simple. He will take care of the Judgment.

  13. They were my views too Amanda, if you don't forgive, the anger and pain will just eat you up. And loving our enemies means we must forgive and not judge others, that isn't our job.

    I've never seen it in the rental store, but you could ask. I bought mine from the USA as it was cheaper than here, even with postage (Christian cinema I think is the name).

  14. Yes, Bets, I understand -- God sent Jesus while we were yet sinners. However, after He sent Him, we had to repent before we could be saved. It does not say that while we were yet sinners, God forgave us. We must repent.

    We, too, are to be open to forgiving no matter what; but there must be repentance.

    I certainly did not mean we are to "harbor unforgiveness" or revenge in our hearts. That would truly be an awful thing -- sin. We are to always be open to the possibility of forgiveness on our part no matter what.

    And, yes sometimes people mean different things when they say forgiveness. Sometimes, people really mean "amnesty" rather than biblical forgiveness -- implying that no wrong was ever done.

    In some cases, yes, we are to actually give anmesty -- usually in those petty women's squabbles where offense was taken where none was meant. No true harm was done. No sin occurred. In these cases, amnesty is called for.

    For actual sins against others (not just petty stuff that is not sin -- misunderstandings and the like), the brother must go to the person who he has offended and ask forgiveness; or the offended one must go to his brother (Matt. 18) and talk to him.

    We are always to look to forgive and reconcile, no matter what. I hope you understand. Sometimes this takes help from God, if the sin against us was very serious.

    And as for 70 times seven, yes, I can see that people with sinful natures could actually sin against someone 70 times. I don't think that is farfetched. In Matt.18:22, the context is still within the brother coming to you, not blanket amnesty, as is the whole chapter.

  15. Oh, and yes, Clara, we are to pray for those who despitefully use us. I can still pray like that for them, even if there has been no repentance and no true biblical forgiveness can take place. We can still pray for people like that -- that they will be convicted and come to repentance (or to salvation if they are not saved). That is why we do not need to keep a bitter attitute or be revengeful, or like you said, HARBORING unforgiveness.

    Christ forgave us when we repented, so we need to be open to doing that, too. No room for harboring a hard attitude. We still have to pray for those people. We have to guard our hearts.

    But, I think you know what I meant. And like A Quiet Gracious Life said, we have to release these things to God and let Him deal with it.

  16. Jo~ I know this comment is a bit late. We just watched this movie tonight and I am so thankful I did. I have to deal with forgiveness daily and I sometimes get sick of it...especially forgiving the same offenses over and over again.

    But it is true, we don't forgive the offense necessarily...its the offender. The offenses are in the hands of God and He will judge them justly. He doesn't force us to choose rightly and we cannot force others to choose righteousness either. Sometimes it seems that our lack of forgiveness is our way of trying to force someone to repent.

    Anyways, so glad I watched the movie and I can feel a post coming on for The Times.

  17. Just read your comment Mrs Santos - you are quite right, the offense is still evil, it is the offender. it was a very powerful story wasn't it - but so sad as it was true.


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