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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: July 15, 2015.

Is there any hope for forgiveness in a culture increasingly consumed by individualism?

For the Amish, forgiving others in order to live at peace is woven into the very fabric of their faith. How do they do it? And how can we have the same attitude and ability to forgive?

TV shows from National Geographic, TLC, & PBS highlight the growing curiosity about this unique group of Believers. As we look from our fast-paced, busy lives into a tradition of simplicity, we have to ask: what can we learn from their contrasting way of life?

Through true stories gathered from a variety of Amish communities, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher shows you how the Amish are able to release their pain and desire for revenge, and live at peace with others.

Her in-depth, personal research uncovers the astounding yet fundamental way the Amish can forgive anyone from the angry customer at the grocery store to the shooter at Nickel Mines. You’ll learn how to invite God into your story, apply lessons from the Amish to your own circumstances, and find the freedom that comes with true forgiveness.

Reviewers are hailing Heart of the Amish as ‘powerful’ and ‘life-changing.’ Sonoma Christian Home is delighted to share a free excerpt from Suzanne’s new book below:



Free Excerpt: Heart of the Amish Introduction

A warning: there’s a pretty good chance you won’t feel like the same person after reading this book. About halfway through the research and writing of this manuscript, I called my editor, Andrea. “If one more event occurs in my life that requires forgiveness, I will have to cancel this contract.”

She just laughed.

“No, I’m not kidding!”

She laughed again.

Fine. She was no help. I got back to work. The reason I started this book in the first place was because, as I have studied and written about the Amish, I have felt so impacted (convicted might be a better word) by their intentional forgiveness. The world got a taste of Amish Grace after the school shooting at the Nickel Mines schoolhouse on October 2, 2006. The Amish responded with ready forgiveness, not vengeance, to the shooter’s wife and family, because such a response has had centuries of conditioning. “When forgiveness arrived at the killer’s home within hours of his crime,” the authors of Amish Grace write, “it did not appear out of nowhere. Rather, forgiveness is woven into the very fabric of Amish life, its sturdy threads having been spun from faith in God, scriptural mandates, and a history of persecution.”

The Amish believe that to forgive an enemy—so contrary to human nature—is to follow Jesus’s instructions on forgiveness, as well as His example. And they don’t just seek to forgive. They also love and bless those enemies.

Photo Courtesy of Bill Coleman.

The Amish seek to love & bless their enemies; Photo Courtesy of Bill Coleman.

I’ve always asserted that studying the Amish doesn’t mean you have to “go Amish.” But I’ve also discovered that much (not all, but much) of what drives their customs and traditions isn’t, or shouldn’t be, unique to the Amish. Many behaviors belong to all Christians. Key customs, such as the eternal significance of forgiving others, rest on verses from the Lord’s Prayer, embedded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–8). An oft-repeated proverb is “You can stop forgiving others when Christ stops forgiving you.”The fundamentals of Amish forgiveness rest on a literal interpretation of this verse: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14–15 KJV).

Most Protestant traditions assert that forgiveness begins with God, that we receive it and then are able to forgive others. The Amish believe they receive forgiveness from God only if they extend forgiveness to others.

Better minds than mine have tried to settle that sticky theological debate. Anglican theologian John Stott might have best captured the intention of Jesus’s words in his book Through the Bible, Through the Year: “This certainly does not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. It is rather that God forgives only the penitent, and that one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit.”

Whether, like the Amish, you accept a literal interpretation of those verses or a more figurative interpretation, it is clear that forgiving others who wrong us is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

The traditional lifestyle of the Amish is still preserved in many locations, including Lancaster, PA; Photo Courtesy of Lancaster County.

The traditional lifestyle of the Amish is still preserved in many locations, including Lancaster, PA; Photo Courtesy of Lancaster County.

As I wrote and studied, it almost seemed as if this book conjured up opportunities to put into practice what I was writing about. Our family faced a serious issue with someone who has a volatile, unpredictable personality. During one particularly bad stretch, the person would email harsh accusations and then carry on with their day unaffected, while those of us who received their emails would feel, at best, distracted for the rest of the day. At worst, we’d be wiped out. My husband started calling those email missives “drive by shootings.”

My husband and I met with an insightful counselor a few times to sort out how to proceed with forgiveness. For our circumstances, we needed to know what it looked like to forgive someone who couldn’t be trusted. Boundaries were necessary, but I also wanted to keep a door open for reconciliation. It took some time, but I could tell I had forgiven this individual when I genuinely celebrated good things that happened in their life. John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, calls it “to will and work for good.” I wanted the best for that person and could sincerely pray for God’s blessings on them. I’m cautious about interactions with them, but I’ve learned how to keep a distance without being cold or unfeeling or dismissive. We’re at a much better place than we were a year ago.

Other “opportunities” to practice forgiveness were less dramatic but strangely just as emotionally taxing. Not long ago, I got together with a friend, one of those persons who lacks a filter and requires a margin of grace. We chatted awhile, then out of the blue, she made a rude, hurtful comment about one of my children. I was stunned. I didn’t even know how to respond. I could handle criticism from this friend about myself . . . but about one of my children? It cut to the core.

It has taken nearly as much effort to forgive my friend as it has to forgive our “email bomber.” The Amish have a saying, “It isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoes.”

One thing for certain, my awareness of the need for forgiveness was growing. Giving it and receiving it. I want to be a person who makes forgiveness a way of life, a ready response. But how?

David and Miriam Lapp shared their Amish family life with the world in a recent documentary; Photo Courtesy of Google Images.

David and Miriam Lapp shared their Amish family life with the world in a recent documentary; Photo Courtesy of Google Images.

When it came to forgiving this friend for her hurtful remark about my child, I tried and tried to let it go. No luck. I knew her well enough to realize that if I were to say something to clear the air, she would dismiss it and say I was too sensitive.

A day came when I held out my hands, palms up, and said, “God, I just don’t have it in me. Help me to forgive her.”

An aha moment! I had been trying to forgive in my own power. In fact, most of the current literature about forgiveness is all about “choice.” Choosing to forgive is a good start, but it won’t get anyone to the finish line—the place of full forgiveness. It’s holy work, forgiveness is. It’s counterintuitive to our nature, yet so very essential to our well-being. We don’t stand a chance at forgiving others without God’s help.




Pain. Revenge. Unforgiveness. Overcome all these obstacles and find peace, thanks to Suzanne Woods Fisher’s new book. Check out Heart of the Amish today


Suzanne Woods Fisher, The Heart of the Amish Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2015. Used by permission

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