The clip-clop of horses' hooves echo in our thought as my wife and I recall our visits with a dear Amish family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Several decades ago we established a bond of friendship based on our mutual respect for each other's faiths.
The response of the Amish community during the Nickel Mines school shooting tragedy provides a healing model of forgiveness. Their acts of grace shocked the world, especially when the Amish quickly forgave the shooter and embraced his family in love and support. The essence of this example of forgiveness also was demonstrated in the Sandy Hook shooting by some of the parents.
The Boston Marathon bombings will show the resiliency of Bostonians, and quick healing is available for them too. There are stories of folks running towards the explosions to help. This courage, kindness and forgiveness being lived by the Amish and by New England folks is what life is all about. These spiritual qualities cannot be bombed, shot or stopped.
To forgive is not always easy. But it has a healing effect. Why? Because when we truly forgive, condemnation and hatred, which are elements of what the Bible refers to as the "carnal mind," are gone. The apostle Paul wrote, "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God." (Romans 8: 6,7)
This carnal thinking is what caused King Herod to kill a community of male infants when he sought to kill the baby Jesus. Whatever the motive in such cases, whether it is fear or hatred or some other form of depravity, it can and must be destroyed through the all-power and grace of God's love. And this is where divine forgiveness plays a part.
New Hampshire native Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "The pent-up elements of mortal mind need no terrible detonation to free them. Envy, rivalry, hate need no temporary indulgence that they be destroyed through suffering; they should be stifled from lack of air and freedom." (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 356)
We must deny and destroy carnal thoughts and actions through cultivating such spiritual qualities as gentleness and generosity. The Amish offer a good example. They are devout Christians. They shun materiality for spirituality and practice Jesus' teaching of radical, unconditional forgiveness. Christian Science teaches us that such spiritual-minded living naturally promotes peace and health.
In a promise of such peace, a beloved psalm in the Bible tells us: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. ... Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." (Psalms 91: 1, 5-7)
And in a statement entitled "What Our Leader Says," Mrs. Eddy underlines the importance of right thinking, telling her followers:
"The self-seeking pride of the evil thinker injures him when he would harm others. Goodness involuntarily resists evil. The evil thinker is the proud talker and doer. The right thinker abides under the shadow of the Almighty. His thoughts can only reflect peace, good will towards men, health, and holiness." (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany 210: 1-17)
What about the deaths that have occurred in Boston, Sandy Hook and Syria? I'll be praying to understand more about life and love, two words that elevate our thought closer to God. And I'll be praying to know that those injured and grieving will be healed and comforted as promised by Jesus: "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew, 5: 4)
Forgiveness in individual lives has been proven to bring health to those who are grieving or sick. Both medical research and Christian Science practice have shown how unconditional forgiveness heals. Divine love inspires us to love and forgive because this is what God and His law does. God's law can even awaken those who kill and commit suicide, bringing to them redemption and healing.
Forgiveness is an expression of divine love, which includes all creation. Jesus taught that it even includes the so-called evil and unjust. Divine love embraces all men, women and children on earth. So it's possible, even if difficult, to love all - even our enemies - and bless them.
George Reed of Bow is a member of the Christian Science Committee on Publication.