The Heart of the Amish – A Book Review
“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
How many times have I read the Lord’s Prayer and cringed just a smidge? Sure, I want God’s forgiveness. And I try to be forgiving myself. But I’m certain I don’t want God’s forgiveness of me to be in direct proportion to my forgiveness of others.
Yet that’s what Jesus’ words suggest. After finishing his prayer, he explains: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” It still leaves a little wiggle room for my wicked mind – I try to forgive, after all, even though I’m not perfect. But Jesus continues, “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15) God’s forgiveness of us is dependent on our forgiveness of others.
So I was excited to learn of Suzanne Woods Fisher’s new book The Heart of the Amish: Life Lessons on Peacemaking and the Power of Forgiveness. I agreed to review it,* thinking it would give me straightforward advice about how to forgive others. I wanted to know how the Amish forgive.
The book did not meet my expectation in this regard. Not because the author didn’t do her best to convey the message, but because the Amish methods are not something to be taught. They are ingrained in their being and their culture. How do you teach someone to love their children? To be kind? Forgiveness is the same sort of thing. Surely we can practice and improve our skills, but forgiving seems mostly to just be in the doing of it.
The Amish take very seriously Jesus’ admonition to forgive, believing fervently that forgiveness of their own sins depends on it. It is that heart attitude that must change inside of me. And my trust in God that through him all things are possible. No bullet-pointed list is going to help me to do that.
Though it is not a how-to book, The Heart of the Amish does show that it can be done. The book is filled with examples, small and large, of acts of forgiveness within the Amish community. It is peppered with Bible verses – reminders of God’s expectations for us – and Amish proverbs that guide them to forgive.
I am equally shamed, convicted, and encouraged by these stories of forgiveness. In the doing of it, in the living of their Biblical principles, the Amish show me that I can live up to Biblical principles, too. They remind me to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
And they show me that it can be done. Not without effort. Not without swallowing pride. But it can be done. And it must be done.
This book has already sparked many conversations in our household, and I’m sure we’ll be pondering and re-reading the stories for years to come. It has changed my way of thinking about forgiveness and peacemaking and what is possible when we trust God to help us be obedient to Him. It is well worth reading.
*Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.