The Beautiful Power of Forgiveness

This is my column for this week:

My wife and I recently viewed the movie Amish Grace, based on the tragic massacre of five little girls in the Amish community of Nickel Mines in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

We were deeply moved by the powerful story of forgiveness. I must confess I know little of the Amish, but what little I have experienced; I’ve often found their version of Christianity a bit more performance-based than grace-based. And yet, this movie moved and challenged me in ways I can’t begin to describe.

If you’re not familiar with the story, in 2007, violence and mayhem, two elements typically isolated from the Amish community, entered their world. Five of their precious little girls were ruthlessly gunned down by a milkman everyone thought and knew to be a good Christian, husband and father.

The movie swings back and forth between the home of the gunmen and the home of the Gruber family, who lost their daughter. Each home is wrestling with their faith. But the most poignant struggle is with the mother of the daughter, who can’t abide the forgiveness her faith requires.

It is one thing to talk and preach and write about forgiveness as if it’s some abstract spiritual quality. It’s quite another to live it out, especially when it requires you to forgive your child’s killer.

What is evident is that this level of forgiveness is not a work. It’s not a quality that springs naturally from the heart of man. It’s a forgiveness so powerful it must come from God. It’s a forgiveness born on Easter, wrought in the unjust, wretched death of Jesus Christ, who was killed for sins you and I committed against a holy God.

When we view our own injustices through that prism and when we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to penetrate our hearts, then and only then can we forgive those who wrong us.

Today, as you read this, I know you are struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you deeply. Perhaps there are some who have even experienced the pain of seeing your child gunned down in cold blood. How in the world can you forgive such a monster?

Then again, how in the world can God forgive you? How can he forgive me?

Someone has rightly said that television is a vast wasteland. But in Amish Grace, the filmmakers have produced a movie of tremendous quality. If you struggle with forgiveness, I urge you to watch it. You will be moved in ways you didn’t imagine. And you will appreciate the forgiveness offered on Easter by your Heavenly Father.

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