Eternity’s With All Due Respect podcast’s Easter edition carries a tale of forgiveness for an act of almost unbelievable savagery.
Esther Scott is the daughter of Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who worked with lepers in India. In 1999, he was burned to death by Hindu activists, together with his young sons, Timothy and Philip, aged 10 and six. Esther was only 13.
You’ve had 20 years since that event to think about what that forgiveness might might mean and to experience it. What’s that been like?
I remember about two weeks later, I was on the train returning to school – because I was at boarding school – and I was reading a magazine that had the story about what had happened to our family and it had a picture on the front … And I remember at the time looking at it and feeling initially a sense of anger, that he’d done this to my family. And then I went, “Hang on, I said I would forgive. What does that mean?” And then having to work that through. But then getting to the point where I was able to look at that and actually go, [I have] forgiven him. An, that anger was replaced, I guess, by sadness, with the grief process.
Asked about forgiveness of a crime, and the justice system, Scott says: “I guess from the way that I have come to understand it, forgiveness from my point of view is certainly a lot about relationships. So the experience of my forgiving those who did this to my family is a large part of it to do with not holding resentment, not seeking to bring about that justice and retribution myself …
“I guess a large part of that is [drawn from] Romans 12 where it talks about ‘do not repay evil for evil, but love.’ Because ‘vengeance is mine, says the Lord.’ I think a big part of it is in trusting the fact that God is ultimately going to bring justice, perfect justice. But in the meantime, yeah, like, it’s still right for fairness and for the law to take its course. It’s just that I personally am not seeking retribution. I’m not seeking, I’m not resentful, I’m not thinking revenge.
God being the one who brings perfect justice … but I guess you’ve got experienced that that doesn’t always happen in this world. How do you think this whole experience has affected your relationship with God or your faith?
It certainly strengthened it … In the face of such a loss, the only thing that there was to bring me comfort was the heart of seeing the hope because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and seeing them again in heaven, in an age to come. As well as the fact that knowing that God is sovereign and he’s in control and he’s the one that’s going to ultimately sort it out in the end. I remember at the funeral, the song that mum and I sang was Because he Lives, we can Face Tomorrow. I think that song summed up the reality of what it was like and the heart that we had at that time. And I think that’s certainly still been the narrative over the last 20 years.”
With All Due Respect (and other great podcasts) are here.