Malcolm Gladwell is an insightful writer with life changing insights. In a recent Jan/Feb Relevant Magazine article on his new book David and Goliath he talks about the power of forgiveness and the impact that Wilma and Cliff Derksen had on the writing of his recent book. He begins the book with this Bible verse: 1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Gladwell shares the story of Wilma and Cliff Derksen’s tragic death of their teenage daughter Candace who disappeared on her way home from school. After an extensive city wide manhunt her body was found bound and tied in a hut a quarter of a mile from her home. Since the city had been transfixed through the media on the event, Cliff and his wife agreed to a news conference after his daughter’s funeral.
“How do you feel about whoever did this to Candace?” a reporter asked.
Cliffs answer, “We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives.”
“Our main concern was to find Candace. We’ve found her.” Wilma said. “I can’t say at this point I forgive this person,” stressing the phrase at this point. “We have all done something dreadful in our lives, or have felt the urge to.”
Where did these parents find the ability and power to forgive?
This is what drove Gladwell to write this book. Wilma, in an interview with him for the book, explains that she wasn’t a saint but was called to do an act that was bigger than her own power. She had been raised as a Mennonite with her family’s roots in Russia. They suffered terrible persecution before fleeing to Canada for their faith. As a Mennonite, her response to terror and persecution was to take Jesus’ instructions on forgiveness seriously.
Wilma said, “The whole Mennonite philosophy is that we forgive and we move on.” This wasn’t easy. It took 20+ years for the Winnipeg police to track down Candace’s killer and Cliff had been considered a suspect during their investigation. Wilma admitted she wrestled with feelings of anger and retaliation. They both decided they had to rely on a strength and power that was bigger than themselves. They acknowledged the power of forgiveness and of “turning the other cheek,” Luke 6:29. They were compelled to do what Jesus asks, but few of us are able to do. To do something that confounds the wise and baffles the world – to forgive the unforgivable. They found a weapon that cuts through evil – one of the weapons of the spirit.
What can you do to baffle the world, confound the culture, expose the power of God? Isaiah 54:17