Monday, October 24, 2011

Forgiveness Among the Amish

Recently, several members of the Amish community in Ohio have been attacked through a rather non-traditional method: hair and beard cutting. While this may sound like a rather petty and harmless crime to us, these acts are truly offensive to members of the Amish faith. To the Amish, hair is an important symbol. Women keep their hair long and covered while married men grow out their beards to demonstrate their marital status.

The Amish, who highly value forgiveness, have struggled regarding the involvement of the police in this issue. According to Amish belief, we must forgive others in order for God to forgive us. The traditional Amish response to evil is to forgive and to "turn the other cheek" according to Scripture. However, in this case, several Amish families have decided to involve police officers not for purposes of revenge, but in order to prevent future harm of other Amish men and women.

During the past couple weeks, we have discussed in class the importance and the process of forgiveness, especially as related to the effects of genocide in Rwanda. In class, we noted the connection between one's relationship with God and one's relationship with others. Apart from a genuine, growing relationship with God, we cannot truly forgive those around us. I think the Amish would agree with this belief and yet add to it. For the Amish, refusing to forgive others as God has forgiven you will result in God with-holding forgiveness from you.

I think the Amish truly grasp the depths of their own depravity and the heights of God's grace, and I think we have much to learn from them. Their view of forgiveness reminds me of the parable in Matthew 18:23-35. The king's servant,whose enormous debt is suddenly erased, immediately demands from his friend the small sum that has been borrowed. Instead of forgiving as he had just been forgiven, the servant throws his friend into jail. If we, like the servant, have received an incredible gift of forgiveness from a holy God, how can we refuse to forgive other human beings, who have sinned just as we have?

1 comment:

  1. I remember when we were reading "Hurt People Hurt People", Sandra Wilson spoke of the value of forgiveness. She went on to expand on what forgiveness is and is not. Forgiveness is not simply being a punching bag; forgiveness requires that the person acknowledge their own failings and see themselves as in need of grace just like their victimizer. The victim is not required to trust the victimizer.
    The movie we watched about Rwanda fleshed Sandra Wilsons point quite well. While there were many encouraging stories of victims forgiving their victimizers, the movie showed many cases where the victimizers were earning back the trust of their victims. It makes me think of a saying I once heard. "Forgiveness is free; trust is earned".


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