In 2006, a man named Charles killed five elementary students and then himself in an Amish community in Nickel Mines, PA. Five little lives were taken in their classroom while their teacher and the other children watched in nightmarish horror. A close-knit community was rocked forever by an outsider who unleashed all his fury of reasonless evil upon it, and the grief-stricken parents were left to bury their little ones in the Pennsylvania soil.
Then something happened. They Nickel Mines community forgave.
Charles Roberts wasn't Amish, but Amish families knew him as the milk truck driver who made deliveries. Last month, it was announced that the Amish community had donated money to the killer's widow and her three young children. (emphasis added)
"I think the most powerful demonstration of the depth of Amish forgiveness was when members of the Amish community went to the killer's burial service at the cemetery. Several families, Amish families who had buried their own daughters just the day before were in attendance and they hugged the widow, and hugged other members of the killer's family," said Donald Kraybill, a sociologist at nearby Elizabethtown College and co-author of Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy. (emphasis added)In 2012, a man named George shot and killed a 17 year-old named Trayvon, as the younger man punched him about the head after the two got into a fight in a neighborhood. One young life was taken in an awful confrontation, while the other, after a lengthy legal process, went free.
Then something happened. The Trayvon community didn't forgive. In fact, members of the Trayvon community organized protest rallies, threatened George with further legal action, and even threatened to kill George, George's parents, other people named George, and other people with similar phone numbers as George.
These stories are both true. But they are vastly different because of one thing: forgiveness.
The Nickel Mines community knew that even if it retaliated against the killer (if he hadn't killed himself), the killer's family or people like him, it wouldn't bring justice to the loss of their children. They knew that true justice in these times comes in eternity and nowhere else. And in the face of unspeakable evil they were convinced of this truth:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)They did, and their actions testify to their love.
The Trayvon community says it wants justice, but it doesn't. It wants vengeance and more. It wants retaliation on a larger scale. With its current mindset, this community will not receive justice it says it wants; nor will it overcome evil, because it has already been overcome itself.
The question is, will the leaders of this community realize their mistake? Will they at some point see the fruits of their labor (not equality, but hatred) and actually forgive George? I don't know. True forgiveness is not something people make themselves do; it is a fruit of a heart that has known forgiveness itself. We cannot bring true peace to others without first having peace from God, and that is where we all must start.
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This is by no means either an exhaustive history of either case, or a final word on the current situation within America. Time will only tell what kinds of things will happen in the next few months. It is mainly meant to expose the stark difference in these two situations, and to point to the enormous healing that happens when people love and forgive others. Is this difficult to do? Of course.
I hate racial labels. (That's why I've labeled these two groups of people as "communities" and nothing else. The point remains without delving further.) I hate that people have made and allowed divisions based on skin color. All this needs to stop before anyone can move forward.