I’ve been moved this week at the reports of the murders in the Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. The whole world watched as details of this heinous crime unfolded. We tried to make sense out of it. I’ll confess that I haven’t been able to.
The Amish people have stepped up big and offered forgiveness to the killer and even aide to the widow and children of the offender. One man told the story of an Amish man who wrapped his arms around the killer’s father and tried to comfort him in his grief and disbelief at this son’s act.
The Amish explained that their motivation was Jesus’ command to forgive those who hurt you.
Some have reproached them for their pacifism but there seems to be no lack of courage among these unusual people. One report said that the two oldest girls in the schoolhouse asked to be shot first, evidently hoping that this might in someway help the others to escape.
Yet one of the most disturbing parts of the whole scenario is that we’re already forgetting. The story is being pushed off the front pages by a Congressional sex scandal.
If an El Kaida terrorist had done this we would be outraged and looking for someone to strike at. That would have seemed so much worse and our memory would have been much longer. To me, this act rivals the evil of September 11. That day, people who hated us attacked innocent people hoping to forward a twisted ideology.
But what do you do when the “terrorist” is the neighborhood milkman? In Pennsylvania, the gunman looked like us. The terrorists attacked strangers; this man butchered neighbors. The terrorists killed indiscriminately; this man deliberately singled out the most vulnerable innocents—little girls.
His evil surpassed that of Osama Ben Laden to my way of thinking.
We’ve spent billions of dollars and thousands of brave men and women have given their lives to try to stamp out the evil behind 9/11. I’m just afraid that we’re going to forget the horror of that Pennsylvania schoolhouse and make no effort at all to defeat the enemy that perpetrated it. Will we stop long enough to consider what makes our own do such unthinkable things?
Who is the enemy? Who do you bomb? Where is this “terrorist” hiding and when will he strike again? We could identify a lot of candidates—violence in the media, child pornography, etc. that may have contributed. I’m sure that we’ll come up with some culprits. The congressman caught in his own scandal seemed to want to blame others and other things for his indiscretions (sins) …
I can’t explain it, but I have a deep sense that people who love the Lord Jesus have an important role to play in the solution. In the Bible, Nehemiah was horrified to learn of the pitiful state of his people. He mourned; he fasted and called out to God in prayer; then he got up to do something about it.
King Josiah learned from God’s Word how rebellious his nation had become. God’s law had been lost and they didn’t even realize that some of the horrible things they were doing were wrong. But when God’s Word was read to him he tore his clothes, which was a sign of mourning, and he wept. He tried to make things right before God. Then he got up and began to obey God and to clear out the sin, where he had the possibility to do it.
When the prophet Jeremiah perceived the great destruction which lay just ahead for his nation, he exclaimed, “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.” (Jeremiah 9:1, NIV).
The last few years the United States seems to have had one wave after another pass over it—September 11, hurricanes, war, school shootings. Shouldn’t we as God’s people cry out to him for forgiveness and mercy for the nation? Nehemiah hadn’t sinned but he repented for the sins of his people, including himself among them. He cried out for forgiveness (Nehemiah 1).
And God heard him!
Maybe we need to treat these things as more than just another news item on CNN. “That’s terrible!” we say, and go about our lives as before. Maybe we need to slow down and think, see if we can see what is behind all this, and cry out to God for our nation, our children, ourselves.
If God’s people aren’t stirred, who will be?