"I Forgive This Man! Hate Will Not Win," Grandfather Proclaims After Murder of 7-Year-Old Athena Strand

(Maitlyn Presley Gandy Facebook (Athena's Mother))
Read Time: 2 minutes

The body of 7-year-old Athena Strand was found less than 10 miles from her father's home where she was abducted in Wise County, Texas last Wednesday. The community is mourning her tragic death and her grandfather Mark Strand took to Facebook to share a message that has now gone viral.

In the post, Strand proclaims his forgiveness for 30-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner, the contract FedEx driver who is charged with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping in Athena's death.

"A friend just asked me the other day if I believe God speaks to people? I happen to know He does, as He is speaking to me now," the post reads.

Mark Strand's post has garnered over 20,000 shares on Facebook and thousands of comments after Athena's body was found by authorities Dec. 2. In his moment of great despair, he reveals the war between his spirit and his flesh. Strand says his flesh would like to see Horner burn in hell for eternity and wishes he had five minutes alone with him, but the Holy Spirit is whispering something else to him.

"That gentle voice is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to me right now. He's reminding me that my savior Jesus, willingly laid Himself on a cross and died in my place to reconcile me to God the Father, but also that He did that for all of us, even this man that my flesh so hates at this very moment," he says.

In a time of weariness and deep grief, Strand paints the picture of how we are to respond to one another—even in the worst of circumstances.

Leviticus 19:17-18 says, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely reason honestly with your neighbor, and not suffer sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."

As hard it is to not take vengeance and justice into our own hands, Strand knows the purpose is to find peace and not allow our hearts to be hardened to the voice of God.

"If I allow this hate to consume me, that voice will fade and eventually be silenced," and finishing the post he says, "My spirit has heard God's voice and right now, while tears flood my eyes, I declare publicly that I forgive this man! Hate will not win."

Authorities have not yet released the official autopsy and cause of death. "It hurts our hearts that child died, so much so that she is on her way now to the medical examiner's office and there's a Texas Ranger in front of her and there's a Texas Ranger behind her. This community does not like losing our children," Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said during a press conference.

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Shelby Bowen is an assistant editor for Charisma Media.

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