This Sunday our focus will be Peacemaking. The word is a verb as opposed to the word peace which is a noun. Peace is what we might experience as a result of the hard work of peacemaking (and it is hard work).
In preparation for this Sunday, I have been reading a book by Donald Kraybill, titled Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. It is about a tragic school shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006, in which five young Amish girls were killed and five injured by a non-Amish man from a neighboring town, who then committed suicide. It was a random act of brutality against the most innocent victims imaginable. The event devastated the small, isolated community, but it also shocked the world that such a modern form of violence would find its way into a quiet peaceful corner of the country. One Amish man said that the event was “our 9/11”; they would never be the same.
As horrific as the details of the shooting are, what was truly remarkable, what will be remembered about the event, was the Amish response: almost immediately, the community offered forgiveness toward the killer and his family. It wasn’t just words either. Members of the community attended the killer’s funeral and established a fund for his widow and children. One Amish man went to the house of the killer’s father and held him as he wept, another painted the word “forgiven” in beautiful calligraphy over the door of his mother’s house. The stories of the acts of grace are as shocking as the violence that necessitated them and they confront us with many questions. How did they do it? Was it genuine or was it merely a display? Is forgiveness appropriate for the unrepentant? Did it diminish the lives of the victims and their families’ suffering? Was it the right thing to do?
These are questions for us to ponder as we think about our work as people called to make peace in the world. What role does forgiveness play in the pursuit of peace? Would more forgiveness end war and violence or is accountability a better way? And what does the Bible have to say? I hope you can attend this Sunday as we look to Scripture for answers and pray for victims of war as well as those who perpetrate it.