Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Amish Forgiveness

With the recent Amish School shootings in Lancaster County, we have seen a rise in the value of forgiveness, especially as demonstrated by the family members of these victims. As horrible as this tragedy was, what better value could we focus on in our world, in our lives, and in our churches today other than forgiveness? It has been said that we are never more like God than when we forgive. But what exactly is forgiveness?

From the time we were little kids we were taught that forgiveness means to “forgive and forget.” But is that really possible? Do we really expect these precious Amish parents to forget what happened in that school house? Folks, listen, forgiveness is not forgetting. That is just plain impossible. Forgiveness is choosing to not use the offense as a weapon to continually punish the offender. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 13 when he said that “love keeps no records of right and wrong.” Love doesn’t keep a mental record of what you have done to hurt me in order to use it against you in the future.

By the way, that is exactly how God forgives those who put their faith in Jesus. I have heard some people say that as Christians, God doesn’t even remember our sin. Well, of course He does. He’s God. He’s omniscient. He knows everything. If God didn’t remember our sin, He wouldn’t be God. The Bible does teach us that once we are forgiven by God that our sin is buried in the deepest sea. Question…does God know what is at the bottom of the deepest sea? Of course He does. But even though He knows what’s there, if we have truly given our hearts to Jesus, He will never bring those sins back up to use against us. Why? Because He forgave us. How beautiful is that?

How often do we continue to bring up mistakes people have made against us in the past as a verbal and emotional bully club to beat them over the head with? Forgiveness does not forget. Forgiveness chooses to not bring up the offense to use it as a weapon. But what if the person doesn’t deserve my forgiveness? Good question. Now, let me answer it by asking a different question? Did you deserve God’s forgiveness? I didn’t think so. Neither did I. But guess what? He made His forgiveness available to us even though we did not deserve it. That is why the Bible says we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In Ephesians 4:32, we are told to be kind and tenderhearted toward one another and to forgive one another just as God has forgiven us in Christ. That word “forgive” has as its root word the same word translated “grace” in the Bible. What is grace? Grace is receiving something that I did not deserve. We are saved by grace. God forgave we who put our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, even though we did not deserve it. Now, Scripture exhorts us to do the same.

So tell me, what family member have you been holding a grudge toward? What church member have you struggled with? What neighbor have you been feuding with? If the Amish can forgive the shooter and his family…If God can forgive us…why can’t you forgive them? Why can’t we forgive each other? We can learn from the Amish.

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