Since I am writing from Lancaster County, there were a few obvious production errors in this movie. The Amish buggies in the movie were not the same buggies used by the Lancaster County Amish. The Amish clothing styles were not correct for Lancaster County either. (Amish communities around the country often have their own unique distinctions from one region to another.) The Amish mens’ beards were too neatly trimmed and looked unnatural. And the Amish spoke like they were ‘English’ in Amish clothing.
Some of the details from the actual school shooting were changed in this script, and at times the plot seemed contrived. But that aside, the movie did convey the horror of this tragedy that gripped Lancaster County for weeks, and the emotional devastation that confronted the families of both the victims and the killer alike. The movie also explores what became the dominant story of this tragedy – the Amish forgiveness of the killer and the Amish grace toward his wife and children (see our account of this Amish forgiveness from 2006).
One scene in the movie shows three Amish men calling on Mrs. Roberts to comfort her after the loss of her husband (the killer). After quoting Matthew 6:14 (“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”), one of the Amish men said to Mrs. Roberts, “We will not allow hatred into our hearts. We know you will be facing harsh judgments and we would like to offer our help. We are your neighbors. And if you or your children need anything, we hope you will let us know.”
The movie characters also remind us of the emotional turmoil that can result if we harbor bitterness and anger in our hearts. An Amish father talking to his surviving daughter about the killer said, “He did do an evil thing, and I don’t blame you for hating him. And you can hate him as long as you like. But tell me, this hate that’s inside of you, how does it feel? Does it feel good?”
His daughter replied, “Not very good.” The father continued, “No. Hate is a very big, very hungry thing with lots of sharp teeth and it will eat up your whole heart and leave no room left for love. We are lucky that God understands this. He is the one that will hand out the punishment so that we don’t have to carry this terrible hate around inside of us if we don’t want to, if we are willing to forgive.”
In agony, one of the Amish mothers whose daughter was killed exclaimed, “My daughter is dead, too, and I want to scream at the world. But more than that, I do not want to make my heart a battleground between hate and love. It hurts too much. We have suffered enough damage. We must do what God asks. We must choose love.”
And finally, when refering to the killer, an Amish man stated, “Our forgiveness isn’t about Charlie. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t even mean a pardon. We know that Charlie will stand before a just God. But we also know that if we hold on to our anger and resentment, then it is only ourselves who are being punished.”
There is much we can all learn from this heart-warming story of love and forgiveness. Life is too short to let the burdens of anger and bitterness control our lives. We all need to learn to forgive and to love one another.
Evil exists in this world. Sooner or later we will all come face to face with it, and we’ll have to learn to live with its consequences. Life’s lessons can indeed be painful. But forgiveness and love can help us move on to a new day, a new life.
During this blessed Easter season, don’t forget the ultimate act of forgiveness when God sacrificed his own son Jesus on the cross. He did this to pay the penalty for our sins. By acknowledging our own need for forgiveness, we can each find peace with God and experience His great love firsthand. It is a free gift offered to us all.