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In October of 2006, a milk-truck driver stormed into a one-room schoolhouse in a small town in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He was armed with multiple guns and knives. He freed the boys, parents, infants and a pregnant woman. After tying the arms and legs of 10 Amish girls, he ruthlessly shot them execution style, instantly killing three of them. Two more girls died the next morning. At the end of the carnage, he shot and killed himself. Reporters flocked to the small town, expecting rage against the man and his family.

The community’s response astonished and inspired people worldwide. Instead of laying blame or talking about revenge, the grandfather of a girl who had died suggested forgiveness. On the day of the shooting, Amish neighbors visited the driver’s family to share their compassion. Five days later, his funeral had more Amish than non-Amish mourners. Many made it a point to hug his widow to comfort her. His family was invited to a funeral for one of the Amish girls. A year later, the community donated money to the assassin’s widow to help support her three young children. Forgiveness! Are you serious?

What’s interesting to me is that, even though this made the news, this kind of thing seems to never be part of the media feeding frenzy. Yet, forgiveness may be one of the most powerful forces ever on the planet. And, when it is practiced, it has dramatic healing powers for everyone touched by it. We have seen this healing power in Mandela, who was in a small prison cell for 27 years near Cape Town. When he was released, he was filled with forgiveness and not contempt. When he was elected President, he knew that forgiveness would encourage reconciliation and healing. At his inauguration, he invited a special guest-his former jailer. The power of forgiveness is revolutionary, when practiced!

Jesus said: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) I don’t think there is a more penetrating statement in all of scripture! If you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you! Your relationship with God is integrally part of your relationship with others and vice versa.

This is all well and good, but what is the primary motivation to forgive anyone, especially your enemy? The answer is FREEDOM! As long as you refuse to forgive, you are in bondage to this person who hurt you! In bondage behind an invisible wall! You are his/her slave for as long as you don’t forgive! To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you all along!

#jesusmovement

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