AURORA, Colo. In the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, an injured victim stands out as a beacon of forgiveness.
He is Pierce O'Farrill, one of 58 moviegoers injured July 20th when a heavily armed masked gunman, now in police custody, charged into the dark theater and systematically and seemingly indiscriminately began shooting. O'Farrill was shot in the right arm and left foot, and has shrapnel lodged in his chest.
Twelve others were killed.
"I'm not angry at him. I'll pray for him," O'Farrill said. "This is going to be hard for people to understand, but I feel sorry for him. When I think what that soul must be like to have that much hatred and that much anger in his heart what every day must be like. I can't imagine getting out of bed every morning and having that much anger and hatred for people that he undoubtedly has."
"There is evil in this world, and there is a darkness," O'Farrill said. "There is an enemy, but the wonderful news is there is a Light, and there is a Light that shines brighter than the darkness ever imagined."
Ryan Heller, O'Farrill's pastor at The Edge Church in Aurora, said O'Farrill has opened a much-needed dialogue on forgiveness.
"Some of the other survivors have said that they can't or won't forgive. Reporters are contrasting him against other survivors so it is important to understand what Jesus says about forgiving," Heller said. "While so many people are questioning God in this time, Pierce is a light in the darkness. His faith is increasing, growing and maturing while many are in doubt. Pierce is like a rock."
Heller focused on forgiveness in his sermon the Sunday following the attack.
"Pierce has already forgiven him. I think that is exactly what we need to talk about this morning is forgiveness," Heller said, before explaining the Matthew 18 parable of the unforgiving servant. "God wants us to live lives of continual forgiveness. Forgiving brings strength and vitality. The reason that Pierce is able to forgive is because Jesus is in him."
Colorado governor John Hickenlooper referenced O'Farrill at Aurora's prayer vigil the Sunday evening after the mass murder.
"The outpouring of light and love is so much more powerful than any darkness," Hickenlooper said.
John Fruend, a close friend of O'Farrill, called him "a beacon of Christianity and what it is supposed to be about forgiveness and making the most of every day.
"Pierce believes God had him in the theater for a reason to tell God's message and use this as a forum. For him to say [he forgives the shooter] with all his wounds and pain is amazing. It moves me every time I think about it," Fruend said.
Heller said the tragedy highlights the church's mission as the hands and feet of Christ.
"In times of tragedy, we have a great chance to minister when we otherwise may not have had an opportunity," Heller said. "We are committed to sharing the light and evangelizing in our city."
The Edge loves O'Farrill.
"We visited him in the hospital and joined hands in prayer over him and his family. Our whole staff has been really involved in encouraging him," Heller said. "Kids from our children's ministry made him get well cards."