Man Forgives 2 Boys Who Set Fires That Killed His Wife and 2 Daughters: ‘That’s What Jesus Would Do’
A father whose wife and two daughters perished in a devastating wildfire last month in Gatlinburg, Tennessee wrote an inspiring message to the two teenagers suspected of igniting the inferno.
Instead of blame or bitterness, Michael Reed only has words of compassion.
“I forgive you. My son forgives you. My wife and beautiful girls forgive you,” he wrote in an open letter on the Gatlinburg Fire Missing or Found Facebook page.
Reed, husband of the late Constance Reed and father to the late Chloe and Lily Reed, continued: “We will pray for you. Every day. We will pray for your parents and your family members. Every day. We will pray for your peace. We will show you grace. Why? Because that’s what Jesus would do.”
Reed later told the Knoxville News Sentinel that his forgiveness is not for the well-being of the culprits as much as it is for his own.
“As humans it is sometimes hard to show grace. We hold grudges. We stay angry. We point the finger and feel we have to lay the blame somewhere. It’s human nature and completely understandable. But I did not raise my children to live with hate. I did not teach my girls or my son to point the finger at others. John 8:7 says, ‘Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone,'” Reed wrote.
He said he posted the letter to get the feelings off his chest and not to gain recognition.
“I had to think about it and how I have raised my children,” he said. “I have raised them to be forgiving, courteous and respectful. If this was flipped and I had passed away, I wouldn’t want them to hold a grudge â€“ to be resentful and angry.”
Reed believes the boys who have been charged with aggravated arson are too young to “know God’s design” and “haven’t lived enough of life to know the consequences of their actions.”
“I always told Constance you can never appreciate heaven until you have been through hell because you have nothing to compare it to,” Reed said.
He believes that if his wife were still alive, she would have wanted him to forgive as a testament to God’s devotion in their life.
“If you live your whole life holding a grudge against everybody who has ever hurt you, then you will be lonely the rest of your life. The true definition of a Christian is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. I hurt and I can be angry with them. This is not how our life was supposed to be. But if Jesus has forgiven me and my neighbours for our sins, I have to follow in his footsteps,” he said.
Reed and his teenage son, Nicholas, reportedly heard about the fires while they were on the road and tried to rush back to Gatlinburg. But when they arrived, the authorities told them that his wife and children died from the tragedy.
The wildfires reportedly damaged more than 2,400 structures and caused more than $500 million in damages.
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