Victims Forgive a Mass Murderer in the USA

Courage surprises us when we stumble on it unexpectedly. Compassion and love wash over us like a refreshing breeze in August, when we find them where we anticipated searing hate and vengeance.

On October 3, 2006, heavily-armed Charles Carl Roberts, 32, commandeered the one-room Amish schoolhouse at Nickel Mines, a farming community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, about 60 miles west of Philadelphia.

The Amish are descendants of Swiss-German settlers from the Alsace-Lorraine region. Their Christian denomination places importance on the Gospel message of forgiveness. The Amish forbid the use of electricity in their homes, will not drive automobiles or tractors for fieldwork, and follow a strict dress code.

Roberts, who was not Amish, let the boys and adults in the school leave. Some speculate he planned to sexually molest the 10 girls he kept prisoner, but the police arrived too quickly for him to put his plan into action.

He shot all the girls, whose ages ranged from 6 to 13, killing five of them. Then he killed himself. He said he was mad at God, according to the surviving girls. He even asked them to pray for him.

But something astonishing happening before the carnage, according to Rita Rhoads, a midwife. Thirteen-year old Marian Fisher asked the killer to shoot her first, apparently hoping to let the younger girls survive.

Her 11-year old sister Barbie told the story to her grandfather who related it to Rhoads. Barbie appealed to the shooter to shoot her next. The younger sister survived. Continue reading

Do You Struggle To Believe God Has Really Forgiven You?

balance-154516_640If my little brother wasn’t such a nice guy I’d be in big trouble now. As the youngest of the family he fell prey to the tricks of our sister, ummm … and me.

Like the time he slept peacefully on the couch and I stuck ammonia under his nose. Back then I thought it was funny. Now, I think that I must have had a strange sense of humor.

Now, Charley is nice, but it must be admitted that he tried to get me back. I slept with one eye open after that, waiting for justice to even the score. He still owes me after all these years so I hope he’s forgotten it.

Something in us believes the score has to be even, though, the scales have to be balanced (unless they are unbalanced in our direction).

“Justice” demands it, doesn’t it? How many times as a kid have you promised, “I’m going to get even with you.”

Maybe that’s why we have a hard time believing that God has really forgiven us, even when we’ve asked Him to, and He promised to do it. Continue reading

Giving Up My Right To Revenge

Police shows have succeeded cowboy shows in our imagination. Roy Rogers used to leap on his faithful steed Trigger and barrel away after Black Jack Jenkins or Black Jack Somebody-Or-Other. A hoof-pounding horse chase followed.

Today Tom Hanks jumps in his Ferrari and squeals and screeches through the streets chasing Black Jack’s cinematic children.

I think one reason we like cowboy movies is that they give us such a sense of fulfillment, at least the cowboy movies before 1965. The bad guy always gets it in the gizzard at the end and he’s paid back for all the evil he’s done. Things are evened up.

In high school our glorious team got stomped 59-6 by the Murfreesboro Rattlers one year. I may have already told you that but I was really marked by that beating. The next year we came back and beat them 44-0. You can look it up in the annals of the Nashville News. Our theme that year was, “We ain’t forgetting!”

What a good feeling to even up the accounts like that.

Except when I analyze it, it’s not really what the Lord taught. Vengeance? Continue reading

Are You Forgiven If You’re Planning On Doing It Again?

Check out the podcast at the end of this article: Romance!

Depending on your perspective, one of the joys or curses of growing up down South was country music. You couldn’t escape its influence.

Daddy used to listen to the Grand Ole Opry Saturday nights on the radio, which wasn’t too bad when I was four. You can stand almost anything at that age. Later, when I was in college, you basically chose your camp: ‘goat-roper music’ or ‘rock and roll.’

Church music was basically gospel, southern gospel (which was kind of a hybrid gospel/ country) or hymns. That’s the world that was.
Continue reading

Bye, Bye Fine

Here in France they copied the English and put traffic radar machines all over the place. They also put up a big sign to announce that they are there but occasionally poor souls get busy talking or thinking about how to solve the world’s problems and forget they are there. (Me, for example).

The result isn’t pretty. You open a letter with the impressive letterhead “French Republic” to find a bill for 90 euros (that’s if you were only going 13 mph too fast. It gets worse as you get faster).

I’m a witness to the fact that these official letters inspire a certain amount of fear, along with anger and frustration. They enrich the owners of the radar machines and rob (well, kind of anyway) poor souls like me, who just forget for an instant.

Seems that spiritually-speaking, Jesus had a letter like that nailed to his Cross.

“When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.” (Col. 2: 13-15, The Message)

If I take Paul’s symbolism correctly, it’s as if the motive for Christ’s condemnation was nailed to his Cross with Him. But, that motive wasn’t his sins, it was our sins.

When I finally pay my fine for driving too fast, that letter has no more power over me. Someone could come and say, “You must pay your fine!” Then, I could show Him my receipt and tell him, “That letter has no more power over me or claims on me. I’ve paid my debt.”

And you know what? You could even pay my fine for me, and the result would be the same. No more debt because the price has been paid.

Do you see what Jesus was doing? Our sins had run up a huge debt against the justice of God. There were two ways to rid ourselves of that debt—we could pay or someone else could pay our debt for us.

Only … if I paid my debt to God’s justice it would have cost everything I have—my life—and I would have been rejected eternally into a place prepared for punishment of the devil and his angels. That’s the only way I can pay my debt. (Eternal) life in prison.

Or another can pay my debt. The Father prefers the second solution by far. So, that letter that was written against me was nailed to his Cross. If we looked at it closely I wouldn’t be surprised if we couldn’t read, “PAID IN FULL” stamped in blood-red letters across its face.

I suppose these spiritual authorities are those evil powers that would remind us of our debt and try to keep us in slavery to fear. Nope! Ain’t gonna work any more, that particular lie.

Jesus paid my “fine.” You can’t claim payment again, neither can the enemy. God now calls me “righteous” vis a vis the claims of justice.

Anyway, the devil and his angels have a “fine” of their own that they’ve got to pay. We see the sorry procession marching behind the triumphant leader, Jesus Christ. They are vanquished; He is Victor and Lord.

In my opinion, there’s not going to be any radar machines in heaven. Down here, though I’m trusting in God’s grace, I’m trying to have a lighter foot on the accelerator.

The French police aren’t as merciful as the Lord.