Four Amish girls were buried on a hill in Nickel Mine, Pennsylvania, this morning. Charles Carl Roberts IV, the shooter who invaded their schoolhouse, took their lives and shattered their community's private world, took his own life as well. Roberts' wife and three children live nearby. Two other acts of school violence, one in Colorado, one in Wisconsin, occurred only a few days before Roberts' rampage on his neighbors. Trying to understand what is happening in our country, and why, is a confusing struggle of faith and fear.

But the Amish community has startled our nation into subdued silence with its simple offering of forgiveness to Roberts' family and the sincere hope that they stay because they will also be offered friendship and continued support. As an article posted on AOL;s news service pointed out, "In just about any other community, a deadly school shooting would have brought demands from civic leaders for tighter gun laws and other security, and the victims' loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman's family or threatened to sue."

But that's not the Amish way.

Gertrude Huntington, a Michigan researcher who has written a book about Amish children, has said of the impact of the tragic loss of these children, "The hurt is great. But they don't balance the hurt with hate." Before Roberts' body had been removed from the scene, members of the Amish community began gathering outside the schoolhouse where the tragedy took place. It was that night that neighbors came to the Roberts family home to offer their forgiveness for what had happened that day. On the CBS Evening News, one young Amish man simply said, "We must forgive or Jesus won't forgive us."

We are not accustomed to forgiveness in our culture. We are uncomfortable with the vulnerability it implies, the righteous anger it steals from us. Most of us know The Lord's Prayer by heart - Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. Forgiveness, asked for and offered, has no boundaries, no limitations, no timeline and no prerequisites. Forgiveness simply is what we must do if we expect forgiveness in return, from each other and from God. Luke's gospel also quotes Jesus as saying, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back (Luke 6:37-38)."

It will be said of this tragedy, as history has recorded many times before about other, equally tragic circumstances, that it is impossible to forgive such horrible acts against innocent people. And yet, the Amish of Pennsylvania have already proven that blanket statement false. While their lifestyle is quite different than our own, we share a common humanity that cannot be denied, even by our own fear to consider embodying this straightforward, honest faith we have witnessed this week. For this is our faith as well, and even though we have laid claim to technological advances and material wealth unprecedented, even in our own United States, we need to step back and see where we have lost touch with its most basic tenet. Forgiveness has never been about what has been done to us, but about what we can offer now.

Author's Bio: 

The Rev. Cory L. Kemp, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay with a double major in Communication and the Arts and Social Change and Development and a minor in Women's Studies, was ordained into the ministry of the Moravian Church in North America after completing her Master of Divinity degree studies through Moravian Theological Seminary. Over twenty-five years of experience in individual and community ministries gives Rev. Kemp an informed perception about faith, its implications and struggles in everyday life. Rev. Kemp focuses her work on helping people understand their faith and how faith can become transformational in their lives. Bring authentic, meaningful faith into your daily life by visiting