What is forgiveness?
Sara Weaver is the young girl, now grown woman, who survived Ruby Ridge in August of 1992. For 10 days, her family was under siege in the mountains of Northern Idaho. Her brother and mother were killed by snipers, her mother while she was holding her youngest child in her arms. Sara's father and a family friend were wounded. They even shot and killed the Weaver's dog.
William Shatner interviewed her on his show Aftermath. Sara talks frankly about her feelings at the time. She had no idea who was attacking them and why. She had lost her younger brother, who was her best friend, and her Mom.
On the outside we heard the news stories of the Idaho compound surrounded by federal officers. We heard about the dangerous people hiding out at Ruby Ridge. Sara, meanwhile, heard the same officers calling out to her and her family, asking them to come out into the open. She was terrified.
What were the gunmen thinking? Probably each and every one of them feared for their lives. They thought they were confronting a subversive group. They thought they were doing the right thing. But as the siege ended and the investigation began, grave questions arose about the law enforcement branches involved, evidence, motives, and responsibility. Horrific is an understatement. Sara Weaver was just 16 years old and her whole life had changed in those 10 days...because of a mistake?
When she told William Shatner she had forgiven them, I thought he looked genuinely shocked. I was. Why? She had every reason not to forgive. But I could see the peace on her face and hear comfort in her voice. She was free. She said she forgives others because Jesus has forgiven her. That was hard to hear because Sara forgave something much worse than anything she could have ever done. Forgiveness is not an even scale.
I wonder if the gunman who killed her mother has heard her story.
Sometimes forgiveness is mistaken for approval or, worse, betrayal. But the very act of forgiveness is a pronouncement of guilt. You cannot forgive someone who is innocent.
I don't know that I've ever seen such an engaging or astonishing story about forgiveness. How did she do it? Sara Weaver said God gave her the capacity to forgive. That is the only explanation I have for it, whether someone forgives a small slight or a life-changing act. I think it takes something more than we have on our own. I think it's a gift.
Sara Weaver's story is on Aftermath, Season 1, Episode 5, Ruby Ridge.