Baptist Press and the Denver Post each ran stories recently on Pierce O’Farrill, who pronounced forgiveness for gunman James Holmes hours after being shot in the arm and the foot and injured in the chest in Holmes’ Aurora theater massacre in July. The BP article refers to O’Farrill as a “beacon of forgiveness,” which raises the question: What exactly does it mean to O’Farrill to forgive James Holmes?
It would be unfair to assume that the Baptist Press article provides an accurate, comprehensive, and systematic statement of O’Farrill’s understanding of forgiveness, but it does provide some notable trajectories.
“I’m not angry at him. I’ll pray for him,” O’Farrill said. “This is going to be hard for people to understand, but I feel sorry for him. When I think what that soul must be like to have that much hatred and that much anger in his heart — what every day must be like. I can’t imagine getting out of bed every morning and having that much anger and hatred for people that he undoubtedly has.”
“There is evil in this world, and there is a darkness,” O’Farrill said. “There is an enemy, but the wonderful news is there is a Light, and there is a Light that shines brighter than the darkness ever imagined.”
The Denver Post article adds:
“Of course, I forgive him with all my heart. When I saw him in his hearing, I felt nothing but sorrow for him — he’s just a lost soul right now,” said Pierce O’Farrill. “I want to see him sometime. The first thing I want to say to him is ‘I forgive you,’ and the next is, ‘Can I pray for you?’”
O’Farrill describes a forgiveness evidenced by a lack of anger and a prayerful attitude toward the offender, coupled with pity and empathy toward him. All of this appears undergirded by a confident trust in the goodness and power of God to overcome evil.
Is there anything that you would add to that definition? Remove from it? Reword? Revise? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
In our next few posts we’ll take a look at some very specific definitions of Christian forgiveness that will affirm portions of O’Farrill’s understanding, add in a few thoughts, rework and remove others–and turn one or two elements of what O’Farrill shared completely upside down.