Monday, August 15, 2011

Never Beyond a Second Chance: Scandalous Grace and Insane Forgiveness

Who Deserves a Second Chance?

If you are anything like me, you have struggled with forgiving the folks in life that have abused you, taken advantage of you, hurt you, have regularly offended you, speaks poorly of you, hurts your family members or someone close to you.

Some folks seem more worthy of my forgiveness than others. So, my natural tendency is to forgive the ones that are worthy of forgiveness and not the rest. That seems justifiable and logical. Seems fair enough, right? There is not any real need to forgive someone that is down right evil and has no desire to change their actions, right?

In 2006, a very tragic thing occurred in Nickel Mines, PA. Charles Roberts, the local milk truck delivery man, stormed into a one-room school house and began shooting. He shot ten young girls, killing five, and then killed himself. The families of the Amish school girls were devastated. We can barely imagine their grief.

If anyone had a reason to withhold forgiveness, it certainly would seem the Amish families of Nickel Mines had as much justification as anyone. How did they respond? They refused to degrade his character. Half of the people that attended his funeral were Amish including the parents who had just buried the children a few days prior. Amish families visited the shooter's widow and carried her meals and flowers, and they contributed to a fund for her family. When asked about their views, the Amish explained that if the shooter had lived, they would have wanted him locked up - not out of revenge, but for the safety of other children.

A book has been written about the shooting and the Amish response - Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher.

Are the Amish right? Are they setting an example for the rest of the world that we should be taking to heart? Are we allowed to pick and choose who we forgive? Are we obligated to give grace if we accept God's grace in our lives?

The Bible has a couple of things to say on the issue:

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." - Luke 6:37

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." - Matthew 6:14-15

People of the Second Chance(POTSC) is launching the NEVER BEYOND Poster Series: 25 posters representing well known historical, current and fictional characters who are believed to have harmed society. This campaign consists of digital and print posters and the full collection will eventually be displayed as a touring art exhibit.

The campaign draws out themes of forgiveness, grace and what a pathway to a second chance looks like.

The image at the top of this post is the first of their 25 poster series. Do you recognize the image? It is Casey Anthony. You may recall she was accused of murdering her two year old daughter, Caylee and was found not guilty. Casey Anthony ABC News Article

Could you give Casey Anthony a second chance? Would the Amish families in Nickels Mine, PA? As a Christian, are we called to give her a second chance?


mike foster said...

thanks so much for being an advocate for grace and second chances...i sure appreciate you!...mike.

RichardM said...

This is a great post and provides a lot of food for thought. I remember hearing about the Amish incident but have never known about their response.


Bill (cycleguy) said...

The Amish showed much more grace than many Christians do/will. i applaud their reaching out to the shooter's family. We have been given grace. We are to extend it. And yes, Casey deserves a second chance.

Unknown said...


I think I may need counselling. I cannot forgive anyone and if people don't meet my expectations then I refuse to have contact with them, unless there is true remorse otherwise I feel it is wasted effort. For those who are oblivious to the fact they have hurt someone and do not realize it then they cannot be any friend of mine. To me anyone I meet I consider worthy, until I see signs to the contrary

Riding the Wet Coast

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Madding:

Nickel Mines, Pa is less than an hour from here. Leslie and I rode out that way to see the remains of the schoolhouse that was pulled down, and to offer our own condolences on that sacred ground.

I have learned at an advanced adult age that forgiveness is a prayer unto itself. I'm sure the Amish would have forgiven Casey Anthony, just as they would have locked her away so she could concentrate on her own repentance.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Allen Madding said...

Mike - I appreciate what you are doing. Thanks for dropping by.

Richard - I am still mulling this subject over in my head. I still have a lot of learning to do.

Bill - I know that I am expected to extend the grace I receive, but it sure is hard to do sometimes.

bobskoot - I think you and I have the same struggle in common. Somehow I am trying to find how to forgive them and then set boundaries to prevent them from striking again. That is just healthy preservation.

reep - I think I could learn a lot from your neighbors.


Unknown said...

I have read a lot of Amish fiction that deals with forgiveness. Their ways are certainly food for thought, aren't they? They show mercy where none has been earned. I find that hard. They forgive even when forgiveness is not asked for. It is harder to learn that as an adult instead of it being something I grew up with, but I am trying. Thanks for the post!

Deb said...

The Amish are amazing; their lives are so simple and their beliefs so rooted. I remember reading about that horrible day and the reaction from the Amish. I was amazed at the Grace the Amish showed to the shooter's family. It was very foreign to me; as I had learned to hate those who had hurt me or my family in some way. I have come a long way since then; but I still stumble in my Christian Journey. To offer Grace as the Amish did; is not an easy thing to do. But I choose Grace over hate. Deb :)

stevenjocb said...

This book have a lot of points covered and in this book you are anything like me, you have battled with excusing the people in life that have manhandled you, exploited you, hurt you, have frequently irritated you, talks ineffectively of you, harms your relatives or somebody near you. I have read about this book from and i'm hsppy to get the review of this website here.

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