The Christian Calling Card
Eric Metaxas
January 29, 2013

The New York Times Magazine recently ran a stunning, moving piece about murder, justice and forgiveness.

Three years ago, Kate and Andy Grosmaire received the kind of news  that is every parent’s worst nightmare: Their daughter, Ann, had been  shot in the head by her fiancée, Conor McBride.

When Andy Grosmaire arrived at the hospital, he realized that unless God did something “wondrous,” Ann would not survive.

Sadly, Ann ultimately died. But, nevertheless, before she did,  something wondrous did happen. While he stood praying at his unconscious  daughter’s bedside, Grosmaire felt he heard Ann say “Forgive him.” His  initial response was to say “No way. That’s impossible.” But he  continued to hear Ann say “Forgive him.”

When McBride’s father arrived at the hospital, Andy Grosmaire hugged  him and thanked him for coming, adding “but I might hate you by the end  of the week.”

For reasons Andy still doesn’t understand, Conor McBride listed  Andy’s wife Kate as one of the people allowed to visit him in jail. As  she left to visit him, she asked her husband if he had a message for the  man who had shot their daughter. Andy replied “tell him I love him, and  I forgive him.”

As extraordinary as that was, what Kate and Andy Grosmaire understood  by forgiveness was not limited to words. After meeting the prosecutor  prosecuting McBride, they realized that they had it in their power to  affect the outcome of the trial. After meeting with Conor McBride, they  asked that he receive a 10-to-15 year sentence.

The prosecutor, sympathetic to the family’s wishes but still  representing the state’s and community’s interest, insisted that McBride  serve twenty years–under Florida law he could have served a life  sentence and may have been sentenced to death.

The Grosmaire’s pursuit of what Christians call “restorative justice”  was not limited to reaching out to Conor McBride. Andy Grosmaire didn’t  wind up hating Conor’s father. On the contrary, the experience brought  the two families closer.

The kind of forgiveness on display in this story is the antithesis of  what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” The Grosmaires are all  too aware of the damage McBride caused, and they still feel the pain  that that damage inflicted. As Kate Grosmaire told the New York Times,  “forgiving Conor doesn’t change the fact that Ann is not with us . . . I  walk by her empty bedroom at least twice a day.”

Andy Grosmaire is equally clear-eyed about what happened: he rejects  talk about “God’s plan” and sentimental drivel about God “wanting  another angel.”

So, why did they forgive their daughter’s murderer? Because Andy  Grosmaire realized that “it was not just Ann asking [him] to forgive  Conor, it was Jesus Christ.” As Andy put it, “I hadn’t said no to him  before, and I wasn’t going to start then.”

Saying “yes” to forgiveness was the only way forward from this  unimaginable loss. As Kate Grosmaire put it, “Conor owed us a debt he  could never repay. And releasing him from that debt would release us  from expecting that anything in this world could satisfy us.”

This kind of forgiveness is Christianity’s greatest calling card. To  be able to love those who have done you unimaginable harm and seek their  good is truly wondrous.

Other faiths speak about mercy and compassion. Some even urge you to  “let go” of old wounds for your own sake. But Christians worship a  savior who, even as he was unjustly executed, prayed for those who  placed him on the cross and insists that those who profess his name love  their enemies, not just their friends.

It’s what makes this kind of “yes” possible.

For more information on the Christian concept of restorative justice, please visit