The murder of Amanda Blackburn is tragic enough all by itself. Her precious presence in Pastor Davey Blackburn's life can never be replaced. But one of the most asinine statements to hit the media airwaves is the notion that Pastor Blackburn is "weak" in choosing to forgive his wife's murderer and love him. What's even more pathetic is that such a view is held by a fellow minister, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson.
Peterson's perspective is that Amanda Blackburn's killers are not asking for forgiveness. Since they are not asking, Peterson thinks that Pastor Blackburn should not "offer it" because "how does he know that they want to be forgiven?" Jesus did not wait for humanity to ask for forgiveness before choosing to die on a cross as payment for our sins. That decision was made well in advance so that we could have the option to receive it -- as in freewill.
But that point aside, the act of choosing to forgive is exactly that. A choice. And it's not about letting Amanda Blackburn's killers off the hook for what they did. Choosing forgiveness is about not choosing to hate in response to what they did. Hate is a powerfully poisonous emotion. Hate is the root of why Amanda Blackburn's killer murdered her. Choosing to forgive is not about the murderer. And from the angle of Pastor Blackburn's well-being, it's not even about needing the killer to receive it. It's about being able to move forward with his life and be the father that little Weston needs for him to be. And Amanda would want the best for them both.
When a person withholds forgiveness, it will cause a root of bitterness to develop within that person that, if left unresolved, that root would eventually turn to hate and anger and possibly cause that person to turn their back on God. It will also poison any existing relationships and new relationships, because that root of bitterness causes a person to process comments and actions through a lens of anger, and sometimes even a sort of entitlement mentality.
Unforgiveness that develops into a root of bitterness also causes a person to get stuck in their grief, which means that they become unable to heal and figure out a new normal for the new season in which they have suddenly landed. That root of bitterness can also cause a person actually to become physically sick if it remains unresolved.
One of the most beautiful examples of choosing to forgive when killers were not asking for forgiveness is illustrated by Corrie ten Boom's sister, Betsie in the book The Hiding Place. In this real-life story of the two sisters, there is a reason Betsie was consistently telling Corrie not to hate during the time that they were in the Nazi concentration camp. Betsie had a clue about how choosing forgiveness prevents a root of bitterness and prevents hate from taking root in a person's life.
In the coming days, Pastor Blackburn must learn how to be a single father, hold his church together, work not to lose his faith over the situation, deal with the intense, overwhelming emotions that come with losing his wife, and figure out how to carry on with his life. Then there are all the secondary loses, of which there are too many to mention here. However, two of the most profound are losing his prayer partner and ministry partner and the special intimacy that these brought in their marriage.
Choosing to forgive and to love won't be easy in this situation. And Pastor Blackburn is well aware of that. But it is a choice that can be made and maintained by the power of God and choosing to get as close to God as he possibly can during this time of intense emotional pain.
As Pastor Blackburn chooses the road of forgiveness and love, he will be able to be used by God in a powerful way to bring healing to the lives of others in the future. And holding on to that understanding can be a powerful motivator for working through the grief process. Knowing that God can take the ashes of this and turn them into the beauty of eventually being able to do ministry that goes deeper and is more anointed than in the past is a focus that will bring healing to him and those around him, and eventually restore his joy and contentment.