When I hear the same message from more than one direction I listen up. Yesterday in accountability group we talked about what it takes to be able to pray for our enemies or for those who have harmed others. I told my friends I was just not there in regards to the man who is accused of murdering my neighbor, the man against whom the evidence is overwhelming, the man who has not told the police where they can find her. My mentor pastor tried to get me to go down that road on Thursday - to acnowledge the victims in the family of the accused man, but I was having none of it. I'll just hold onto my anger and hurt, thank you very much.
Today, our pastor included the story of Jonah in his sermon. He talked about Jonah running from God's mercy - not for himself, but for the folks of Ninevah. Jonah was afraid God would offer them mercy and save them if they repented - turned from their ways. Our pastor also talked about the first step in our own spiritual healing being admitting something is wrong - ie confessing our sinfulness. Yikes!
This afternoon, I finished reading The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. In this book, the main character is asked by God to forgive someone who did something evil just as I believe the man mentioned above did something evil. The author believes that forgiving does not mean forgetting or letting go of the hurt, it means "letting go of another persons throat." Later God tells the main character, "for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him." Powerful stuff - not enough time to process where I stand on this particular theology, but definitely I'm hearing that I must choose something other than (or at least in addition to) anger and hurt.
The conviction or convincing I've received from all of this is: I need to be praying for this man whose soul is so broken or polluted that he could do such a thing. I'm pretty sure that I'm not supposed to be praying that God's light will shine on him so brightly that he will be crushed at the revelation of the evil he has done - that's still vengeance. So I have begun to pray to the best of my ability and to ask God to strengthen me in this.
My journey as a neighbor through this tragedy is minute compared to that of the family. Please keep all of us in your prayers. Pray that bitterness will not magnify the harm that has been done.