It was a funeral much like any other in the Amish community. People gathered to give their condolences at the home of the deceased; they baked and cooked and helped out the bereaved family. They attended the service together and hugged those who were grieving. There is nothing unusual in that - except this was not an Amish funeral.
'Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you' Matthew 5 v 43
In the film A Stoning in Fulham County, the sherriff says to the English (the Amish term for all non-Amish) lawyer, 'These people don't just read their Bibles; they live them'. Never was this more true or obvious than when, three years ago, a milkman walked into an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and shot dead 5 little Amish girls, wounded several others and then turned the gun on himself. He wanted, he had said, to 'get back at God' for taking the life of his own daughter.
The funeral was that of the man who had so brutally treated innocent Amish children and their families, murdering them in the name of 'getting back at God'. The families of the girls who died opened their hearts in forgiveness towards the family of the man who had done this evil deed. They told the family it wasn't their fault; they freely forgave him.
How could they do this? The Amish are keenly aware that God's Son, Jesus Christ, freely gave His own life to save those who were unworthy of His love and compassion. While hanging on the cross, He prayed 'Father, forgive them; they know not what they do'. The Amish are also keenly aware of their own failings and take to heart the words of Jesus when He said, 'Pray after this manner...forgive us our trespasses as we also forgive them that trespass against us' and went on to explain, 'if you forgive others, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you don't forgive others, your heavenly Father will not forgive you'. The Amish believe that in the same measure they forgive others, they will be forgiven.
Forgiveness is an act, not a feeling. Inside, the Amish families were asking 'why?', just the same as you and I would. But what set the Amish apart from most of the rest of us is they put aside their feelings, accepted that the deaths of their children were part of God's plan, and reached out in acts of kindness towards the family of Charles Carl Roberts IV. Only by the grace of God could they do this.
This event has inspired a book Amish Grace and now a film of the same name. But more, the tragedy aroused in people, once again, a deep interest in the lives of the Amish. Yes, there is something attractive about the Amish faith and way of life that draws people to itself.