On Christmas Day Josiah Sisson, aged 9, was run over when a driver lost control of his vehicle. Young Josiah died just a couple of days later. In a stunning display of forgiveness, Josiah’s father embraced the young man accused of killing his son, and declared that he had forgiven him. Soon after, social media was ablaze with comments ranging from disgust to applause in response to Pastor Sisson’s actions. However one evaluates Pastor Sisson’s embrace of his son’s alleged killer, the peace created through this act was extremely powerful. This is the peace which Jesus refers to John 20:21-23:
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Humans have a bad habit of engaging in games of “tit for tat.”
Someone hurts us, we hurt them back.
Someone defames us, we defame them back.
All the while, peace is slipping through our fingers.
Pastor Sisson, however, demonstrates what it looks like to leave behind the game of “tit for tat” towards a new world of hope and peace. As Jesus says, when we forgive someone they (and we ourselves) are released from conflict to a state of peace. On the other hand, when we refuse to forgive, peace is withheld and conflict escalates. We can all learn something from Pastor Sisson’s actions.
Thank you Pastor Sisson for showing us all what true forgiveness looks like, and the peace which flows from such difficult actions. May you and your family be surrounded by love and peace at this difficult time.