C. Henry Smith presentation: Extending Grace and Forgiveness to Those Who Harm You
I. On October 2nd, 2006, Charles Roberts barged into West Nickel Mines School, an Amish school house in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania.
•After holding several young girls captive, he proceeded to kill five of them, execution style, (three were pronounced dead at the scene while two others died at the hospital). He also seriously injured five others.
◦Roberts then committed suicide as the police were swarming the school house.
•In most other school shootings, the families of the victims lash out against the perpetrators.
◦They threaten to sue the families of the attackers and hatred fills their hearts.
•But this is not how the Amish reacted.
◦Instead they chose to forgive Roberts of what some would consider an unforgivable crime.
■These young girls, ranging from age 6 to 13, had never done anything to Roberts.
■Their deaths were those of innocents.
◦A grandfather of one of dead emphasized to his fellow mourners that "We must not think evil of this man.”
◦An Amish father proclaimed that "[Roberts] had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God."
◦Many of the Amish visited the family of Charles Roberts after the incident to comfort them and one family even called to offer forgiveness only a few hours after the attack.
◦Roberts’ funeral was attended by more than 30 people of the Amish community and the community put aside a fund for his family.
II. Some have argued that in this circumstance forgiveness is inappropriate and that the Amish community is trying to “deny the existence of evil”.
•Maybe some of you believe this, in which case I ask that you remain open-minded and consider a few questions.
•Why is forgiveness such a strange concept for our world?
•How can we justify criticizing those who are forgiving of others?
III. One of the common ways victims show forgiveness is by not pressing charges against the one who has wronged them or by arguing in favor of the offender to receive less or no punishment.
•While the State does not always make this possible, in this speech I will provide examples of extending forgiveness, explain the benefits, and apply it to the Christian way.
(Transition: Two of these examples are personal.)
I. When I was very young, I learned of a car accident that occurred very close to where I live.
•A. Scott Nafziger, the oldest child of my former pastor, was riding home with his grandfather, grandmother and mother when another teenager ran a stop sign and hit the car he was riding in.
◦Scott, his grandfather and the girlfriend of teenager who hit them did not survive.
◦The crash devastated my church and Scott’s family.
◦This boy that so many had watched grow up, perished at such a young age, the wrong time in his life.
•Two Christmases ago was the first time I learned Scott’s family didn’t press charges against the faulted teenager.
◦Scott’s father even went to court to testify for the young driver, asking the court not to send him to jail.
■It was because of his testimony that this young man received probation and lost his license instead of going to jail for involuntary manslaughter.
◦This story of forgiveness seems almost expected since Scott’s father was the pastor of my church but I only learned what happened through a similar incident.
•Christmas Eve, the day before I found this out, one of my friends who attended a high school very close to mine was killed in a comparable accident.
◦The driver was an old man who did not see the stop sign at a busy corner.
■Hollis Richer was coming home from Christmas Eve service with her boyfriend’s family when their car was hit.
■Hollis, along with her boyfriend’s father, was killed in the accident and her boyfriend’s older brother was paralyzed.
•The reason this incident brought up Scott’s accident was because the driver that hit Hollis’s car was a retired pastor at a church out of town.
◦The pastor was horrified at his mistake and the consequences of it.
■Hollis’s family, like Scott’s, chose not to press charges but the case is still pending.
•In both of these situations, the victims’ families chose to not press charges even though this decision was not necessarily easy for them.
(Transition: Doing the right thing is not always easy but it can help both sides move on.)
Blogger's note, Part Two coming...qualifier, some situations of course need pressing of charges in worst cases so as to protect others from similar harm - hopefully with law officials who follow rule of law and justice according to the highest rulings and methods.