Faith Reflections,  Random Reflections

Elizabeth Olten and Forgiveness

Being home sick today gave me a lot of time to think about what today was going to be like for my youth. I was praying last night and today for you. Praying especially about the ramifications of Elizabeth Olten’s murder, for the things that would be said about the accused, for the many rumors and harsh words that would be said.

That was before I even learned about the death this morning of Bill Currie, a teacher at JCHS.

I hurt that you have to face such difficult life issues ever – but especially at this age.

But I can’t protect you from things that happen because the world is made of people who make mistakes, people who hurt others, people who are selfish and hurt others when they are hurting.

God never promised that bad things wouldn’t happen. From the moment God made the choice to let us choose whether to love God or to love self, sin has been a heart-breaking problem. Not just for humans but for God as well. God grieves with those that are hurting. God was with Elizabeth during that horrible evening and was heartbroken for what she was going through but also because someone else that God created was the one causing the pain. No matter what you hear, God does not cause bad things to happen.

I believe God also grieves at the way people are reacting to this tragedy. I’ve not seen such hate and lynch-mob mentality in this area before. The things people have said and have written about the 15-year-old suspect are fueled by fear, anger and hate. They are not the voice or heart of God.

I want to challenge you not to join in on these behaviors. Don’t be one who makes vicious statements about what should happen to the person who killed Elizabeth. Don’t be the one who says at the cafeteria table that you hope she gets what she has coming. Don’t be the one who points and says mean things to those who befriended her. They have enough that they are dealing with during this time.

Instead, keep your eyes on Christ and model him in all your words and actions. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. And don’t assume what that vengeance will look like. It isn’t ours to decide.

In the hallways of JCHS, we need to see Christ more than ever. That only happens when you, Christ’s ambassadors, commit to being the hands, feet, words, and heart of Jesus. When you are tempted to hate, pray. When you are tempted to say something disparaging about someone, say something kind instead. When people preach hate, preach peace.power_of_forgiveness

“Confess your weaknesses to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. ” James 5:16

An event a couple of years ago that made a huge impact on many folks was the forgiveness given by an Amish community against a man who killed five innocent children. They also helped the killer’s widow and children. Their forgiveness was so different, so unique that it brought so much attention on that issue. By their forgiveness, not only were they able to heal over time, more importantly they were able to glorify GOD in all things. Read about it here.

May we also have such a witness.

I love you. And I’m praying for you and our community.


  • Melissa Hatfield

    Thank you for commenting.
    I never said that the individual should not be punished or that forgiving would bring Elizabeth back.
    There are always consequences for our choices. We shouldn’t remove the consequences.
    Forgiveness is not to bring the dead back but to help the living live.

  • Jeanie McGowan

    Such wise words, Mel. Our hearts break for all those who are touched in any way by the events of recent days. May God’s grace and unconditional love wash over us all to bring comfort, peace and hope for tomorrow. Many of us are praying along with you for our youth as they deal with their all their emotions right now. God does understand…

  • Melissa Hatfield

    Great questions. I don’t have answers for either of them. When these things happen, here are things I remember:
    1. God doesn’t control us. God gave up control of us so that we could freely choose to love Him and not be a puppet. That means God can’t control us sometimes and other times can control us. God gave up total control – knowing that sometimes people will choose to do horrible things. So, we either have a God who manipulates us or a God who doesn’t.
    2. This happens every day around the world. Horrible tragedies. Innocent children violently abused and killed. For our Elizabeth, there are thousands of other Elizabeths. We have no more right to be shielded from this than a mom in the Congo or Iraq. So when we ask “Why me? Why Elizabeth?”, God calls us to stop and think “Why anyone?” Because humans are sinful, selfish and make horrible choices.
    These are things that I remind myself about. If you get angry at God, it is okay. God can handle our anger. But we can’t stay angry. We have to move forward and only God’s grace and help with forgiveness can help that happen.
    Keep asking tough questions and taking them to God. He won’t abandon you or get mad at you. I really believe God understands……..

  • Abby

    i just don’t see why it had to be her. i go to school with her older brother, and though i don’t know him, it’s pretty scary to see crime in live action like this

  • MacKenzie

    my little sister was good friends with elizabeth and it hurts me to see my sister this hurt, and i never have gotten why god can heal the blind but he cant stop horrible things like this from happening can you tell me why?

  • Dave Henry

    Beautifully and powerfully said. Thank you Melissa. I grew up less than five miles from the Amish shooting – my mother and brothers still live there. They/I felt the power of forgiveness and healing there, and I pray that we can experience it here.

  • Debbie

    Wonderful thoughts for your ‘kids’, Melissa. I am sure many of them have heavy hearts and are lost in the confusion of all that is going on around them right now.

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