Friday, August 12, 2005

A Lesson in Forgiveness

From CNN...
Jonesboro School Shooter Set Free

I remember this attack very clearly. What was to be a regular day at school, turned out to be a gruesome attack on unsuspecting middle school students. The aftermath: Five dead and nine wounded. Shocking enough, the attack was conducted by two fellow students with rifles.

The shooter set free is 13 year-old, Mitchell Johnson. His record is wiped clean due to an insufficient Arkansas law, which has been rectified. His ambitions are to become a minister and move away from Jonesboro.

As sad as the original story was, I am even more saddened by the public's reaction to his freedom:

"I'm glad he's not coming back to Jonesboro. Too many people in this area would put a hole in him," resident Greg Slayton said.

Whitney Irving, a student at the middle school when the shootings occurred, said she and others still struggle to cope with what happened seven years ago.

"I want to ask him personally: Have you changed? Do you feel sorry for what you did? Have you suffered like we have?" she said. "Of course, there's no way he's suffered as much as we have."

She added, "In my eyes, he's always going to be a killer. I mean I don't see how you can go from being a killer to being a minister, especially just in seven years."

Sure, I can understand the victims' pain. I can rightfully understand Mitchell's need to move away. However, I don't understand the lack of grace and forgiveness. In this particular case, is revenge right? Didn't the Apostle Paul, as Saul, give permission to a group of Jewish thugs to kill Stephen? See the Book of Acts if you don't recall.

Maybe Mitchell has a lesson that he wishes to teach troubled youths. Not a message of getting psycho-therapy or seeing school counselors, but a message of Christ's love, grace, and redemption.

Let's pray that this is Mitchell's goal.

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