Unthinkable Forgiveness

Nickel Mines SchoolOn October 2, 2006 Charles Roberts did not get in his milk truck and makes his deliveries, as was his routine. Instead, Charles Roberts pulled into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines Pennsylvania carrying a gun. He allowed the teacher and the boys to flee. It was the girls that he wanted.

By the time the police entered the schoolhouse, Charles Roberts had shot 10 little girls, killing 5, and taken his own life. There is no way to describe it but as a complete tragedy.

The Amish do things a little different from us, but at the core, they are followers of Christ. And this group from Nickel Mines Pennsylvania proved they follow Christ by their actions after this tragedy.  Many people in the media and in living rooms across the world heard news of this tragedy and were filled with rage. They wanted to know “Why?” They wanted to know, “What would lead a person to do such a horrible thing?”

I’m sure this Amish community had a similar initial reaction. Yet, their actions in the days to follow made people take notice.  The community said, “We must forgive as Christ forgave us.”

As this Amish community grieved the loss of 5 little girls, they showed up to the funeral service of Charles Roberts, the man who a few days earlier entered the schoolhouse wielding a gun. The families supported Mrs. Roberts, who through this tragedy was now a widow.

It is a story about forgiveness. It is a story that apart from Christ seems impossible to understand.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

– Matthew 6:9-15

We know this passage as the Lord’s Prayer. The riches of this passage are immeasurable but let’s put a laser focus on the topic of forgiveness. The prayer ends in verse 13. Yet, Jesus continues on the theme of forgiveness for two more verses. He gives a forgiveness encore.

As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to forgive.  Why? Because Jesus Christ forgave us. We must imitate our Lord and Savior.

Imagine the scenario:  Every time I commit a sin I owe a dollar. A dollar is not a big deal right? We spend $3 to $5 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Our sin might not seem like a big deal until the end of the day, week, month, year when we see how much owe.  The amount owed in this scenario would be huge.  Yet, Romans 6:23 takes it even further.  For the wages of sin is death … 

Here is the good news of grace: Through the sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ we can receive forgiveness from that debt.  Instead of death we get the gift of eternal life.

We all like that deal. We’ll take it. Yet, here is where it gets difficult. In the Lord’s Prayer we are also taught to treat our debtors in the same way. As we pray this model prayer we are forced to remember not only does God forgive us but He expects us to forgive others.

A person who doesn’t understand forgiveness doesn’t understand the grace of God and the person who doesn’t understand the grace of God is prone to unforgiveness.   You don’t understand forgiveness until you begin to forgive.

As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to forgive.

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