He Forgave the Shooter – by Dave Fiorazo on May 8, 2015
This is a story of faith, courage in a crisis, and the power of forgiveness. The Bible teaches Christians to be kind to others, tender-hearted, “forgiving each other just as God in Christ has also forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).”
God has been giving me perspective checks recently; but this one was different.
It was a beautiful day in northeast Wisconsin last Sunday. Lots of people were out walking, bike riding, and enjoying life when evil suddenly struck a quiet community. Many of us were reminded that tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.
An angry man who recently broke up with his fiance decided to grab two handguns and go to a local walking trail. Passing by dozens of people last Sunday evening, the man first shot Adam Bentdahl twice. Adam died at the scene. He then saw a beautiful family and started shooting them. He shot Jon Stoffel, husband and father, seven times and Jon’s daughter Olivia. Both died from the shooting, and Jon’s wife, Erin was shot three times.
With gunshot wounds in her wrist, abdomen, and thigh, Erin Stoffel courageously urged her two other children, Ezra and Selah, to run and get help, and somehow got herself off the bridge by the walking trail. Erin has progressed from critical to serious condition in the hospital, and as of Saturday May 9, her condition was upgraded to good.
The gunman shot himself, and tragically he may now be separated from God and condemned for eternity; only God knows our hearts. We will spend eternity on one side or the other, and without Jesus we are lost. But God always causes us to triumph in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57), and He received Adam (31), Jon (33) and daughter Olivia (11) into Heaven. They took their last breath here and their next breath there.
Victory. For Christians who trust in the finished work of Jesus and the fact of His resurrection, death has lost its sting. But for now, pray for the families whose lives have been shattered, for those who don’t know the Lord, and take nothing for granted.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:14-15
We all need reminders, but God’s ways are high above our ways. Was this a “random” case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or does it somehow fall under His orchestrated plan to bring good out of chaos and evil?
Astonishingly, the last words Erin Stoffel heard Jon say were, “ I forgive you” to the shooter. These powerful, convicting words are now part of Jon’s legacy. His words have challenged my own faith.
None of us deserve it, but Jesus Christ died for us and forgave our sins. We need only to believe and to have God’s Word in our hearts because what we meditate on and invest our time in matters. Is what we are living for worth Christ dying for?
It is clear what was in Jon’s heart. Jesus once said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).”
Jon raised the bar for all of us and demonstrated God’s love. A watching world wonders how on earth a person can forgive those who do us harm. That’s the point exactly; it is not from earth, but from Heaven! It is not natural, it’s supernatural! It is what Jon chose to do. It is what Jesus wants us to do.
Hug your family and friends; tell them you love them, and make sure they hear the gospel because our time is short.
“So teach us to number our days that we might present to You a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
No one knows how they will react in a crisis, but Jon Stoffel was prepared to meet his Maker. Are you and I? If we stood before God today, would we hear Him say, “Well done”?
Once again, we are given a wake-up call; challenged to live up to God’s high standard in Christ to love, forgive, and be His messengers of reconciliation so that others might be saved. In this world, only what we do for Christ will last, and God only knows how many tomorrows we will see.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
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