On the morning of October 2, 2006, a troubled milkman named Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself inside the West Nickel Mine Amish School, ultimately murdering five young girls and wounding six others. Roberts committed suicide when police arrived on the scene. It was a dark day for the Amish community of West Nickel Mines, but it was also a dark day for Marie Roberts—the wife of the gunman—and her two young children.
But on the following Saturday, Marie experienced something truly countercultural while attending her husband's funeral. That day, she and her children watched as Amish families—about half of the 75 mourners present—came and stood alongside them in the midst of their own blinding grief. Despite the crime the man had perpetrated, the Amish came to mourn Charles Carl Roberts—a husband and daddy.
Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain who attended the service, described what moved him most about the gesture: "It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed." He added that Marie Roberts was also touched. "She was absolutely, deeply moved by the love shown." "Amish Mourn Gunman in School Rampage," USA Today (10-7-06)
What an attitude that these Amish families showed to the family of this murderer! What would you call this kind of attitude? Love? Forgiveness? Compassion? Jesus calls it MERCY. In Matthew 5:7 Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.”
If you have been following the progression of the beatitudes in Matthew 5, you have seen that mercy comes from a heart that has first felt its spiritual bankruptcy, and has come to grief over its sin, has learned to surrender meekly to the Lord, and to cry out in hunger for a right relationship with God. Mercy grows up like fruit in a broken heart, a meek spirit and a soul that hungers and thirsts for God. Mercy comes from mercy. Our mercy to each other comes from God's mercy to us.
Jesus gives a powerful illustration of mercy in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The Samaritan who showed mercy:
- Saw the man in need (v. 33)
- Responds with a heart of compassion (v. 33)
- Gave practical help to relieve the man’s distress (v. 34)
- Followed-up (v. 35)
An eye for distress, a heart of pity, an effort to help, in spite of enmity -- that's mercy.
Who in your world needs a gift of mercy from you this morning? Your spouse? One of your children? A co-worker? A family member? A neighbor? Someone in church? In this quiet moment, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the capacity to extend mercy. Refuse to let your heart become callused, hard, and unloving. Let it go. You owe it to God, you owe it to others, and you owe it to yourself.