Overlooked and Unforgiven

By Fred Gilley
Retired minister

Twenty-four-hour news encourages us to believe these are “the worst of times,” to quote from the beginning sentence of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Frequent homeland shootings result in deaths, permanent or temporary wounds, followed by a variety of needs, including grief and/or other emotions. Criminal acts resulting in the loss of one life, at any age, is one too many. However, actual available figures change totals of recent years only slightly.

Total shootings in 2016 may be an exception, but most Americans can be expected to respond with generous caring to senseless shootings or other tragedies. Generous, helpful caring extends even to those known only by reported names or to unknowns in tragic situations. Perceptions of needs prompt actions, and, with the lawyer who inspired Luke’s “Good Samaritan” story, we recognize our neighbor is anyone with unmet and/or un-meetable needs.

Remember? A lawyer (Luke 10:25-29ff) stood and “tempted” Jesus by asking, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (King James Version)

Jesus followed the lawyer’s question with a couple of his own: “What is written in the law? how [sic] readest thou?

The lawyer answered with “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus assured the questioner his answer was correct, adding “this do, and thou shalt live.”

“Who is my neighbor?” was the lawyer’s second question.

Jesus answered from a specific memory or with a now familiar parable, ending with “Which…was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” (10:30)  The lawyer, cornered by the obvious answer, replied with “…’He that shewed [sic] mercy… .’”

“Go, and do thou likewise,” Jesus concluded.

Every act of generous caring is not a direct response to the Jesus imperative. Some, perhaps many, are performed reluctantly and/or unavoidably. Every good gift does not come from a willing or cheerful giver (Second Corinthians 9:7).

Every perpetrator of a senseless criminal act is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s sibling or other relative. Family members, neighbors, or friends may not have known what was planned or had awareness of preparations. The few who make public appearances often express as much horror and disbelief as anyone, but most perpetrator relatives probably prefer blankets of anonymity. Needs may exceed those of victims and victim families, but few (if any) respond.

Damaged self-esteems and other needs provide opportunities for Christian outreach, and  Luke 6:32 reminds us loving only those who love us is no big deal. Others do the same.

Followers of Christ are expected to love and forgive enemies, repeatedly if the need exists. For many of us, loving and forgiving  perpetrators probably will be more difficult than ministering to his or her families. Some, however, manage to forgive after personal losses.

According to a CBSNews story by Jeff Glor (12/12/13), Terri Roberts wanted to move away after her 32-year old son (Charlie) went to an Amish school seven years earlier and shot 10 girls (five of whom died)  and killed himself. Terri felt she and her husband would have to move, but the Amish came to them that night and asked them to stay. Some of the victim families attended Charlie’s funeral. “There are not words to describe how that made us feel that day… .” Roberts was reported to have said.

“For the mother and father who had lost not just one but two daughters at the hand of our son, to come up and be the first ones to greet us—wow. Is there anything in this life that we should not forgive?” Roberts also helped care for the most seriously wounded of the five surviving girls, who was 13 at the time of the Evening News report.

I think Jesus says to us, as he said to the questioning lawyer, “Go and do likewise.” May I add, “Let us not overlook any person with needs, and let us forgive everyone their trespasses?

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