The recent shooting of nine members of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a Bible study in Charleston has been a lesson to American’s on the power of forgiveness, love and Christ’s grace. To the shock of reporters, the families of the deceased loved ones have reached out with love and forgiveness to Dylann Roof. The nation has been stunned by the response, but forgiveness is the true path of Christianity. One reporter almost cried as he heard the congregants singing a hymn praising God. Instead of inflammatory speech and retaliation, the members of the church as well as the leadership have taken the higher road of reconciliation, truly following in the footsteps of Christ. Though it was indeed a racial killing, the families of the deceased are not calling for retribution .This is not an easy path, but one Jesus advocated. Though Dylann’s uncle appeared to want his nephew to die for this, the arresting officers showed far more compassion to the point that that they bought the perpetrator dinner. Love and forgiveness are ruling in Charleston in spite of the prejudice that does exist.
Having friends in Charleston, who work a block away from the church, and a rental house in the area, I was concerned when I first heard the news; especially once they caught the young man. He made it clear that it was indeed a race issue and that he wanted to start another Civil War. Obviously the young man has some mental and emotional issues, but his statement could have been a call for outrage and violent protest from the black community. While the country stood poised, Christians gathered in prayer. The rioting and looting that took place Baltimore did not touch the streets of Charleston. Some may say because it didn’t involve police brutality, but the fact stands that all three events deal with the same social issue—racial prejudice.
Unfortunately, the south is prejudice, but Charleston is less so than other areas. Roof choose the small city and that particular church because of its historical importance as one of the oldest black churches in the South. However, at the time of the shooting, South Carolina still flew the confederate flag over the War Memorial, though it has not flown over the State capitol since 2000. I was concerned rioting would break out over that, but the response was not at all what was expected. No rioting or looting took place, but instead love and forgiveness was extended from the families. The state also quickly responded as the governor of South Carolina called for the Confederate flag to be taken down on state grounds, with other Southern states following suit.
Perhaps Christianity is alive and well in the Bible belt, at least to some degree. The difference in the response of the families in Charleston stands in sharp contrast to the response of the North When we realize how much God has forgiven us and have the love of Christ in our lives, we are empowered to do the same. The same held true for what happened in Egypt with the beheading of the 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS. The brother and mother of two young men who were murdered, wanted the members of ISIS who killed the two family members to know that they forgave them. The mother thanked them for what they did because her son is in heaven as a martyr. More evidence that true Christianity works.
Following the ways of Christ brings healing, reconciliation, peace and love. These aren’t just good ideals, but basic tenets of the faith. In times of severe trouble, when the rains and winds beat against these families lives, Christ shone. This is what true Christianity is about, loving and forgiving others, just as Christ did for us. It is evident all these families have built their house on the rock of Jesus Christ, as the Bible encourages Christians to do. It’s the only safe place in times of trouble.
The example these families present to all of us is the challenge of Jesus Christ. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and that’s exactly what these people are doing.