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Prayer, Plain and Simple

“Love your enemies,” Jesus said. But what does “love” mean in face of senseless violence? That’s the question pressed by the film “Amish Grace” aired last night on Lifetime Movie Network.

The feature is based on the events of the morning of October 2, 2006, when Charles Carl Roberts walked into a one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, took hostages and then shot and killed five girls, aged 6-13. Roberts then committed suicide.

The horror itself shocked the entire nation; but in many ways the response of the Amish community shocked us even more. The family and friends of the slain children chose to forgive Charles Roberts…  We’re used to violence; we are not used to forgiveness. Is this what Jesus meant when he commanded us to “love” our enemies.

The Amish are a Christian sect who seek to lead quiet and separated lives. They have consciously removed themselves from the tumult of modern life, and choose, simplicity, faith, hard work, community living, and family. Their homes have no electricity and they do not drive cars. They are also pacifist, interpreting Jesus’ message that we should “love our enemies” to mean that we should never forcefully resist evil and that we must extend grace in face of even the worst offenses. Thus, their former forgiveness of Charles Roberts for the senseless murder of their children was a faithful expression of their form of Christian discipleship.

here’s a question: Yes, as Christians we are to love our enemies. But what does love look like? The film explores the dynamics of pain, grief, forgiveness and faith from an Amish perspective. But are their other faithful forms of Christian faith? Can it also be loving to use force to stop evil? Is it ever loving, as a last resort to even take the life of a violent person in order to stop their acts of violence? These are ancient and troubling questions. We need divine wisdom to respond…

“God, we pray for those who suffer injustice and those who suffer senseless violence. We pray that your justice will reign. We also pray for the gift of grace and mercy in these situations. And we pray that victims will find the wisdom they need in every situation to express the two sides of your character – both love and justice. In Jesus…”  

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