Summary: We have all been impressed with the measure of forgiveness our Amish brethren in Nickel Mines, PA. have shown in the past week.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT OPTIONABLE
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14- 15 NKJV
The only part of the Lord’s Prayer, or more accurately “the model prayer” that our Lord expanded upon was forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” is modified by our Lord in His commentary to read “forgive men their trespasses”.
In an entirely different setting, Jesus repeated this in Mark 11:25-26 saying, "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
We have all been impressed with the measure of forgiveness the Amish in Nickel Mines, PA. have shown in the past week. The Baptist Press, October 6, 2006 edition, reporting on the Nickel Mines, PA school tragedy in which ten girls were shot, five of them were killed, reads in part as follows:
“Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, entered the West Nickel Mines School Oct. 2, took 10 girls hostage, tied them up and shot them before killing himself.
Leroy Zook, who had seven family members in the school when the gunman arrived, told The New York Times that one of the wounded girls told her parents what happened after the teachers and boys were released from the one-room schoolhouse.
“‘They talked with this gunman and asked him why he was doing this,’ Zook recounted. ‘And he told them why: he’s angry at God, he’s just bitter. He told them that they’re supposed to pray for him that he wouldn’t do this.’
Zook said 13-year-old Marian Fisher, before she was killed, sought to protect the others. ‘The oldest girl there, she said, ‘Shoot me, and leave the others alone,’ Zook told The Times.
“In television broadcasts since the shooting, members of the Amish community in Lancaster County have been asked how they’re dealing with the tragedy, and the Amish have said they have forgiven Roberts because Christ forgave them. The Amish also have reached out to the gunman’s family with forgiveness and compassion, according to media reports.”
MAN IS NOT PRONE TO FORGIVE
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
We have heard some say that Peter may have been trying to impress our Lord with his generous spirit of forgiveness by asking Him if he should forgive his brother “up to seven times?” Whether that is the case or not, you decide; but our Lord made it clear that the number is much higher. Indeed “seventy times seven” equates to infinity. There is to be no limit placed on forgiving our fellow man. Jesus continued his answer to Peter by telling the parable of the “unforgiving servant”.
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents (@ $10,000.000). "But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. "The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ’Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (@ $20,); and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ’Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ’Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
“So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ’You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matthew 18:23-35).