Could you forgive this? |

The Crucifixion of Christ by Mihaly Munkacsy (1844-1900)

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34 NIV)

The most difficult thing that any parent can face is dealing with the death of their child. Perhaps, the second most difficult thing is coming face-to-face with your child’s killer.

It was August 3, 2007, in Noble, Oklahoma, a small city of around 7,000 people.

Renee Haley recalls that when her son, Austin, woke up that morning, he had a serious look on his face and said to his mother it was going to be “a very bad day.”

Thinking he must have had a bad dream, Renee tried to perk up Austin by telling him he should do one of his favorite things, like feeding the fish.

By 9:00 that morning, Austin would be dead, shot twice by a police officer, who had been called to the home of Haley’s neighbor to deal with a snake they had discovered in a birdhouse on their property.

The officer decided to shoot it, and those bullets hit Austin who was fishing at the pond with his grandfather, great-grandfather and younger brother.

Over the next few months, Jack and Renee Haley sought justice for their son, but in the end, the court only sentenced the officer to 90 days of community service and revoked his police certification.

Renee said after the decision, “anger, hurt, rage, all of these emotions just come spewing out.”

In her article for the Western Journal, Kelly Lewis explains what happened next at that Oklahoma courthouse.

“Following the disappointing court proceedings, the Haleys tried to exit the courthouse through the rear entrance when they came face to face with their son’s killer,” Lewis writes. “Unexpectedly, he dropped to his knees. His tears were streaming and he said, ‘please forgive me. I did not mean to shoot your son,’ tells Renee of the former officers behavior at that moment.”

“Faced with a difficult decision at an unexpected moment, Renee says she immediately got a vision of Jesus on the cross, suffering, being treated wrongly, with tears streaming down his face, just like her in that moment,” Lewis continues.

“Miraculously, when the Haleys looked at each other, they both realized the only right thing to do was to forgive the man who killed their son, and when they lifted him off his knees and told him that they forgave him, the trio then hugged, cried, and embraced together in their shared pain and grief,” Lewis wrote.

Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we forgive such a horrible tragedy.

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