His life has been forever changed, yet Michael Reed, whose wife and daughters perished in the Gatlinburg wildfires, says he has forgiven the boys who allegedly started it for the part they may have played in the tragedy.
In an open letter to the two teenagers, Reed, husband of the late Constance Reed and father to the late Chloe and Lily Reed, wrote: “We will pray for you. Every day. We will pray for your parents and your family members. Every day. We will pray for your peace. We will show you grace. Why? Because that’s what Jesus would do.” He posted the letter Thursday on his Facebook page.
In a phone interview he explained that his forgiveness is not for their well-being as much as it is for his own.
His letter reads: “As humans it is sometimes hard to show grace. We hold grudges. We stay angry. We point the finger and feel we have to lay the blame somewhere. It’s human nature and completely understandable. But I did not raise my children to live with hate. I did not teach my girls or my son to point the finger at others. John 8:7 says, ‘Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.’
“Forgiveness isn’t for you. It is for me. It is for my son. It is for Constance, Chloe and Lily. It is for this community who all lost so much in this tragedy.”
Reed said he didn’t post the letter for recognition. Instead it was to get those feelings off his chest.
“I had to think about it and how I have raised my children,” he said. “I have raised them to be forgiving, courteous and respectful. If this was flipped and I had passed away, I wouldn’t want them to hold a grudge – to be resentful and angry.”
Reed believes the boys charged with aggravated arson are too young to “know God’s design” and “haven’t lived enough of life to know the consequences of their actions.”
“I always told Constance you can never appreciate heaven until you have been through hell because you have nothing to compare it to,” Reed said.
He believes his wife would want him to forgive as a testament to God’s devotion in their life.
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SOURCE: USA Today; Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel, Mary Constantine