The Amish in the Nickel Mines shooting in which ten of their girls were shot, and five killed, were noteworthy to the world by their immediate extended hand of forgiveness to the widow of the killer, who had committed suicide. Of course this made their act less difficult, as they did not have to directly forgive the murderer. But there’s no doubt, given their practice and what they’ve done in like situations, that they would have. This story and the good we can draw out from it is wonderfully told in the book, Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy.
An important key for them is to accept everything as being God’s will. They have both a strong emphasis and practice centered on God’s sovereignty. They see whatever happens as coming from God’s hand. And they accept that, even when it makes no sense, and is evil in itself. I’m sure there would be more sophisticated thoughts if one addressed them. But perhaps we would simply hear something like, “We don’t know. We simply accept it as God’s will, and go on.” It is not like they stoically accepted the murder of their dearly loved ones. There was struggle, and they had to work through it. But their immediate response was in keeping with the ethic of life from Jesus which they’ve accepted for themselves, and indeed embraced. And they did it together, in community, supporting each other in that witness of faith.
God’s sovereignty is often not something many of us readily want to embrace, but it surely ought to be a staple in our theological, life understanding, and could be a source of great comfort. But many of us are allergic to and determined to avoid what we consider the determinism, pure and simple, of some Christian theology which seems to minimize and in the end nullify any free will humans have.
This does not answer any hard questions. Like why did the tsunami strike Japan and kill so many, leaving in its wake the nuclear disaster at Fukushima? We don’t do well to try to answer such questions. The Amish at Nickel Mines certainly did not try to answer why it was in God’s will for that terrible tragedy to occur. They simply accepted it as God’s will.
There are dangers in this, such as a kind of passive, fatalistic attitude toward life. But we benefit far more by entrusting all of life, the good and bad, into God’s hands. We have to acknowledge that nothing which happens happens apart from passing through the Father’s hands. I think of the story of Job.
God is much wiser than us, in fact in a true sense is alone wise, and sees clearly the big picture, as well as the end from the beginning (not necessarily in the way our theology pictures that). And God is good. God’s greatness and goodness know no bounds.
But we take that truth in and through Jesus by faith. And by that faith we must live and go on. Believing that somehow God’s good will prevails even through the evil done in this world. That somehow God works out everything for good in the end. Yet praying that God will have mercy, and believing in him as the God of all mercy. Without imagining that we understand just how he does this.
In the end and in the midst of all of life we point ourselves and others to Jesus. He is the one we’re to follow. We see God through him. Through the promise of resurrection through Jesus’ death. And therefore we know that God’s will is good. And that his will will prevail. As together in Jesus we live in his faithfulness before the world.