This nation was in shock upon learning of the horrific crime that was committed by a determined sinner when he murdered several innocent school children in the Amish community in the state of Pennsylvania recently. It is beyond logic and reasoning why anyone would desire to take the lives of those precious young girls. The various scenes shown on television of the one room school house with loved ones nearby could not help but to move every sensitive person emotionally. A seemingly ordinary man who had been a loving husband and father had turned out to be a hardened criminal. It is one thing for an individual to take his/her life but it is another thing for that individual to take the lives of others before killing himself/herself. Suicide is a very selfish deed. We must add that only God knows the frame of mind of the person who takes his/her own life.
It may be that one is mentally disturbed and would not be responsible for his/her deed. However, the loved ones left behind have to deal with the knowledge and experience of a family member taking his/her own life. In this particular and present case the man’s wife and children have suffered immensely because of the lives he took before he killed himself. At the time of this writing five children have died due to the dastardly deed done by this disturbed individual. It is worthy to note that not all killing is murder but that all murder is killing. When God declared, “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV; Exodus 20:13; Romans 13:9), He did not mean that all killing is wrong. The New King James Version, along with others, translates this verse in Exodus, “You shall not murder.” In fact, God had His people to kill at times, especially regarding the seven nations that lived in the ‘Promised Land’ (Exodus 7:1-4)
There are times when justifiable killing is necessary. It may be when a member of our law enforcement has to take the life of a hardened criminal who is bent on taking the life of another person; or, when state officials administer the death penalty to one who has been convicted and sentenced to die because of his/her crime (See Romans 13:1-7). When the man in the present case we are discussing killed the young children and killed himself, he actually murdered the children and then he murdered himself. The murderer then passed into eternity. Please read the awful fate of such an individual as found in Revelation 21:8, “”But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral person and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” How sad indeed it is for a person to enter eternity in such a state!
We all have been greatly impressed with the Christ like spirit exemplified by the Amish community. They are a forgiving people. Even in the midst of their deep sorrow they extended mercy and forgiveness to the one who murdered their precious children. And they expressed care and concern for the widow and children of the very person who ended the lives of their young people. The Almighty God is indeed merciful and forgiving (Psalm 103:1-14). The Son of God was forgiving on Calvary (Luke 23:34). He taught Peter and His disciples to forgive an offender as often as he would repent (Matthew 18:21, 22). Stephen, even while being stoned to death, prayed for those who were taking his life (Acts 7:60). The only comment that Jesus made on the prayer that he gave His disciple was regarding forgiving others in order to be forgiven of God (Matthew 6:14, 15). The apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be kind and forgiving to their brethren even as God had forgiven them (Ephesians 4:32). If we are to be pleasing to God we must possess a forgiving spirit toward those who trespass against us. To be otherwise is just the opposite of the will of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But the question remains, is the person who sins against us in any manner forgiven simply because we have a forgiving heart? The answer is no. We have only dealt with the attitude and disposition of the one who has been offended and not the offender. God, in every age, has demanded that sinners repent of their sins in order to be acceptable to Him. It is best summarized in Psalm 51:17 when David wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart – These O God, you will not despise.” It is not to be understood that the ones who had Jesus crucified were forgiven when our Lord said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (NASB, Luke 23:34). When the people on Pentecost clearly understood by the preaching of Peter and the other apostles that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and that they, by the hands of lawless men, had Jesus crucified, asked the apostles what they should do and the answer was given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
What was required of the people on Pentecost is commanded of all people. Paul taught the same to the Athenians as recorded in Acts 17:30, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent…” Peter instructed a fallen brother in Acts 8:22, “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.” Walking with God and being in full fellowship with Him is predicated upon Christians being penitent and confessing our faults to Him in order to be forgiven of our sins (I John 1:6-10). In short, there can be no forgiveness unless and until there is repentance found in the heart of the transgressor. Did the person who murdered the children express sorrow and repentance following his terrible deed? To whom did he confess it? The parents and families whose hearts were broken in the tremendous loss of their loves ones? Did he confess his sin to God upon murdering himself?
When a person passes into eternity it is too late to make amends for sins committed in this lifetime. Human life is so precious in the sight of God the Creator and sustainer of life. That is why He stated that a life must be taken when an individual takes the life of a fellowman. In Genesis 9:6 we read, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6; 21:12). We also know that God desires that all men turn from their sins and give their lives to His Son Jesus Christ. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). Again we observe the attitude of God had for His people in ages past and the same sentiment would be true today, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, Turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11)?
God loves His creation and He desires that mankind love Him and manifest faith in His Son Jesus Christ in order to be saved (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Jesus stated that unless we believe in Him we cannot be saved from our sins (John 8:24). Our Lord also taught that if we Love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15; 15:10). The Holy Spirit directed believers in the Lord to repent and be immersed in order to obtain forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:36-38). Children of God will love others and will not do bodily harm to them but will seek to do good to them. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” The only hope for a world without violence is to be found in Jesus Christ who gave His life that we might be saved from our sins and to possess the expectation of eternal life with Him when our journey on this earth is over.