It was not only that it was the third school shooting in less than a week that caught America’s attention. It was the surreal image of police tape, investigators and news crews set against the backdrop of Amish horses and buggies and locals dressed in their simple attire.
That such senseless violence should erupt in the heart of Amish country was almost unthinkable. And as the news came out that the gunman should have so cruelly blasted such innocents in this inhuman way—the act seemed to touch even the hardest hearts.
But the Amish, renowned for their nonviolence, would not leave the watching world with that memory. Instead, it would be another scene near rural Georgetown, PA, perhaps even more shocking to a society now grown calloused by constant exposure to violence.
As Fox News put it: “Dozens of Amish neighbors came out Saturday to mourn the quiet milkman who killed five of their young girls and wounded five more in a brief, unfathomable rampage. Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, was buried in his wife’s family plot behind a small Methodist church, a few miles from the one-room schoolhouse he stormed Monday. His wife, Marie, and their three small children looked on as Roberts was buried beside the pink, heart-shaped grave of the infant daughter whose death nine years ago apparently haunted him.”
Then the report notes: “About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish.”
Such forgiveness seems almost unthinkable to Western society. And one reason, it seems, has been the attempts over the last century to eradicate the concept of sin from our collective consciousness. If sin, guilt, wrong-doing are no longer currency, what then of forgiveness? In a world filled with such senseless acts, forgiveness becomes the most senseless of all, if there is no such a thing as sin.
Of course, forgiveness at the human level has its limits. What Charles Roberts needed—and what many of the Amish need, along with the rest of the world—is to unlock the biblical secret of divine forgiveness. It requires an abandonment of all self-effort, all meritorious works, all religious observances as a means of obtaining grace. This is a necessity for true repentance. There must be instead a casting of one’s case upon God, accepting the Lord Jesus as Savior and His finished work as the only means of salvation.
Our prayer for this Amish community, and for a watching world, is that the conclusion of this awful chapter will be a discovery by many of the unmerited forgiveness of the Lord.