Amish Forgiveness

Monday, October 09, 2006

The cross is about how God forgave His enemies, and a big reason that it is so hard to understand is not that we are not smart enough, but simply that we are not good enough. We have not plunged the depths of what love can endure by loving in the face of evil; we have not experienced what it means to forgive a terrible wrong done to one who is our "beloved" as God the Father did on the cross when he lost his Son. Jesus once said of a prostitute "she loved much because she was forgiven much". The inverse is also true: to understand the forgiveness of the cross we need to learn to forgive. Until we can begin to do this in our own lives, we will have no idea what God has done for us, and what the cross cost God. The person who has forgiven a grievous wrong done to them understands what the cross means better than a thousand theologians.

So many worried over how the Amish, without our modern grief counselors or emergency services would survive when the ugliness of the modern world invaded their little parish. But it turns out that those "backwards" Amish have something that we in our post 9/11 post columbine world desperately need. The following story is from PBS's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" by Anne Taylor Fleming

"The modern media world descended en masse into this rural enclave, as if dropped back through time, poking and prodding the grief of the families and the community as a whole. And what they found and what we heard from that community was not revenge or anger, but a gentle, heart-stricken insistence on forgiveness; forgiveness, that is, of the shooter himself. The widow of the shooter was actually invited to one of the funerals, and it was said she would be welcome to stay in the community.

In a world gone mad with revenge killings and sectarian violence, chunks of the globe, self-immolating with hatred, this was something to behold, this insistence on forgiveness. It was so strange, so elemental, so otherworldly.

This, the Amish said, showing us the tender face of religion at a time and in a world where we are so often seeing the rageful face. This was Jesus' way, and they had Jesus in them, not for a day, an hour, not just in good times, but even in the very worst.

The freedom contained in Jesus' teaching of forgiveness, wrote the German philosopher Hannah Arendt, is the freedom from vengeance, which includes both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end.

We have seldom seen this in action. So many tribes and sects in a froth of revenge, from Darfur to Baghdad. And, here in this country, so many victims and victims' families crying out in our courthouses for revenge.

To this, the Amish have offered a stunning example of the freedom that comes with forgiveness, a reminder that religion need not turn lethal or combative. I, for one, as this week ends, stand in awe of their almost unfathomable grace in grief".

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At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How that concept of forgiveness runs so counter to the America of today, driven by greed, full of hate courtesy of our 20 & 30-nothings of "Generation Cheese."


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