Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for the New Yorker and author of such bestsellers as Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers, last year spoke out publicly about his own rediscovery of faith. He credits a visit with a Mennonite couple in Winnipeg, Canada, who lost their 13-year-old daughter to a sexual predator. After the largest manhunt in the city’s history, police officers found the teenager’s body in a shed, frozen, her hands and feet bound; it took them twenty-two years to arrest and prosecute the suspected killer.
At a news conference just after the girl’s funeral her father said, “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.” The mother added, “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,” she added. [Afterward, Wilma Derksen became a Forgiveness Therapist, and outlines her approach in a moving TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sGmYDYTwUs.%5D
The response of this couple, so different from a normal response of rage and revenge, pulled Gladwell back toward his own Mennonite roots. As he told Relevant magazine, “Something happened to me when I sat in Wilma Derksen’s garden. It is one thing to read in a history book about people empowered by their faith. But it is quite another to meet an otherwise very ordinary person, in the backyard of a very ordinary house, who has managed to do something utterly extraordinary. Their daughter was murdered. And the first thing the Derksens did was to stand up at the press conference and talk about the path to forgiveness.”
Gladwell found other instances of ordinary Christians who acted in extraordinary ways, such as the Protestants in rural France who sheltered Jews during Nazi occupation. He adds, “Maybe we have difficulty seeing the weapons of the spirit because we don’t know where to look, or because we are distracted by the louder claims of material advantage. But I’ve seen them now, and I will never be the same.”
More on the subject from Philip Yancey