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“Forgiveness is the Key to Unlocking Hatred”

Jan White
First Prize - $10,000

Jan’s articles have appeared in Charisma, Focus on the Family, CBA Marketplace, Christian Retailing and the Pentecostal Evangel, as well as devotionals in Devo ‘Zine and God’s World for Today.  She has worked for three newspapers and written a weekly religion column for her local newspaper, The Andalusia Star-News, for over eleven years.  Her column has also been published in the Southeast Sun in Enterprise, AL for the past three years.  For five years, Jan has written the Marketlines column for Cross & Quill, a Christian writers’ newsletter.  Early in her writing career, she worked as a ghostwriter on the publication staff of a national ministry.  She has also co-authored two books. She graduated from Evangel University in Springfield, MO with a B.S. in History and English/Journalism.   Jan and her husband, Greg, live in Andalusia, AL where she is active as a community volunteer.

A horrible tragedy occurred in rural Pennsylvania this week when a gunman walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse and killed five schoolgirls.

It’s inconceivable the evil that one person is capable of committing against innocent human lives.  The Amish community - grieving their great loss - has asked for prayer and privacy, following the shooting rampage that also wounded five other girls.

News reports of the shocking tragedy tell of a disturbed man filled with hate toward himself, hate toward God, and “unimaginable emptiness.”  In the aftermath of the tragic event, reporters have repeatedly been amazed that the Amish people have emphasized the need for forgiveness, not anger, toward the gunman.

“We’re very concerned that no message of revenge gets out.  We believe in forgiveness,” an Amish man was quoted as saying.  Another said, “We want to forgive.  That’s the way we were brought up – turn good for evil.”

It’s inconceivable that a community suffering such a senseless tragedy could make contact with the gunman’s family with the message of forgiveness.  Amish elders went to meet with the gunman’s widow.  Marie Roberts was reportedly invited to attend the girls’ funerals.

One Amish woman said, “We can tell people about Christ, and actually show you in our walk that we can forgive; not just say it, but in our walk of life.  You know you have to live it, you can’t just say it.”

Watching and reading about these Amish people, I thought of the saying, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary, use words.”  This week they have preached to the world the forgiveness of Christ who, while dying on a cross said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

One newsman made reference to the statement, “To ere is human, to forgive divine.”  Extending forgiveness in this situation would be humanly impossible were it not for their faith in Christ that enables them to show His compassion.

What is forgiveness?  “Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me,” according to psychologist Archibald Hart.  “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive,” C.S. Lewis once said.

Hopefully, you and I will never have to forgive someone for something so horrendous as murdering our children.  But, are we willing to forgive the friend or family member who hurt us this week or even many years ago?  Sometimes we find it hard to forgive ourselves. 

Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom has written, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate.  It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

Ann Curry, a Today Show anchor, commented after covering the tragic event, “I realize I did not know what forgiveness was until now.”  Would someone learn the meaning of forgiveness by looking at our lives? 


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