Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Forgiveness and Redemption

On December 9, 2007, Matthew Murray entered New Life Church in Colorado Springs with an automatic rifle, two handguns, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Earlier he had entered the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) training center for missionaries near Denver and shot four of its staff members, killing two. He drove 65 miles south to 10,000-member New Life Church, "got out of his car and started firing in the parking lot. David Works, shot twice in the torso, was among those seriously wounded. His daughters, Stephanie, 18, and Rachael, 16, were shot with him inside the family van. Stephanie died at the scene. Rachael, mortally wounded, would die later at the hospital."

By the time armed security guard Jeanne Assam killed Murray, two were dead and three were injured. Far less than the intended tragedy. The Summer 2008 issue of Christian Today's Leadership Journal carries the story New Life After the Shootings. The article ends with a story of reconciliation as the parents of the shooter were invited to tour the church to see the place where their son died:
A few days after this interview, Pastor Boyd quietly contacted the family of Matthew Murray, "Would you like to come to the New Life campus … to see the place where your son passed away?"

Overwhelmed with gratitude, Ron and Loretta Murray admitted they had longed for this very thing, but they'd felt they would be invading what they knew had been a tragic and difficult situation for the church. So they had stayed away.

Now they agreed to come. Boyd then asked them if they'd be willing to meet with the Works family. They said they would. He asked the Works, in turn, if they'd be willing to meet with the Murrays. Surprisingly, they also agreed.

Before the meeting, Boyd spent some time alone with the Murray family, retracing the steps of Matthew Murray on the church grounds, up until the place in the hallway where their son passed away. Many tears and hugs were shared as they grieved and prayed together over the tragedy.

Later, in Pastor Boyd's office, David and Marie Works joined the Murrays.

"What happened there in the two hours in my office … was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long."

Then they prayed together. Later Jeanne Assam was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, 'Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry.'"

We are reminded in the Bible not to repay evil with evil—not to be overcome by evil but to overcome it instead with good. The families involved in these tragic events are showing how to live out their faith by clinging to what is good in the face of unimaginable pain.

"We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."


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